Amy Schumer is everywhere. Her “Hold up, one more swig” sass is plastered across every New York billboard and taxi; her show “Inside Amy Schumer” is red hot after its third season. From “Last Comic Standing” eight years ago to Comedy Central now, she is finally rising to the reverence level of the likes of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
Schumer has proven her perseverance through the industry, staying true to her candid content and adhering to her own standards, even when asked to lose weight for the film. In addition to her onscreen performance, she also wrote the screenplay for “Trainwreck.” In a panel with Lena Dunham last week in New York, “Trainwreck” director Judd Apatow had nothing but praise for her diligence and efficiency, noting how she would come back with script revisions just days after feedback, whereas other writers normally take weeks.
The film opens with a divorced father (Colin Quinn, “Saturday Night Live”) instilling in his unsuspecting young daughters, “monogamy is unrealistic.” As Amy Townsend grows into a (slightly more) mature woman, she takes her dick-of-a-daddy’s advice to heart, shielding herself with a golden “no sleeping over” rule and avoiding feelings like the plague. After a break-up with a two-week boy-toy, played with perfect comedic-timing by WWE wrestler John Cena, she cuts the awkward tension by asking, “Can I just leave?”
Appropriately so, Amy gives relationship advice to men as a magazine journalist, writing about blow job tips to appease her bitchy editor (Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”) who teases her with a promotion. Her mouth with a mind of its own lands her an assignment about sports medicine — the thing she couldn’t care less about, even as LeBron James saunters by — but it also lands her in the lap of Dr. Aaron Connors (literally after the first date).
While Amy’s BFF (Vanessa Bayer, “Saturday Night Live”) fears stepping on Amy’s toes if she takes the promotion for herself, Amy fears spiraling into commitment with Aaron (Bill Hader, “Saturday Night Live”), who is level-headed and envisions a family. Amy’s sister Kim (Brie Larson, “21 Jump Street”), with her shit together, with a geeky son and pathetic husband — is the exact image of everything Amy shuns.
With a brilliant script to work off of, every single supporting actor brings out the best in their characters. Quinn, though confined to a wheelchair at an assisted-living facility in his role, wrings out dimension and duality in being a dick. Swinton, as always, perfects the villainous role, and Bayer reflects exactly what is wrong with doormat women today. James, as a tender-hearted version of himself in the film, shows he is capable of being a sharp but also sensitive actor beyond basketball. Most importantly, Hader sheds the ingrained image of Stefon and is wonderful as a straight man — an “everyman.”
Amy may be an inherently feminist character, but along with that comes a fear of men. By the end, though, she discovers that being an independent woman doesn’t have to equate to shunning men. Ultimately, Aaron motivates gradual instances of change and compassion in Amy. Through a sincere speech at her father’s funeral, she shows that even a seemingly insensitive, crass person — so much like herself — is worthy of love. When she finally listens to her nephew speak, he gives her the best piece of relationship advice put into simple youthful terms: “if you like him, he should be with you.” Amy doesn’t need Aaron; she just wants him. Most importantly, Amy stresses that he is her best friend — and he brings out the best in her as a friend, not as a romantic companion.
However, though Amy grows into a better-rounded individual from her relationship, it’s more ambiguous how Amy’s brash, spontaneous ways change Aaron for the better. Beyond being emotionally aloof for much of the story, it’s unclear how Aaron benefits beyond being enamored by Amy unpredictable schemes. Does he just chase after her because she’s hard to get?
The thing is, there will always be more ways any piece of feminist media can be more feminist. It’s true; Schumer’s radical, ground-breaking work on Comedy Central may make movie-Amy look watered down. However, in a society that still largely backs away from even the mention of the word “feminist,” “Trainwreck” introduces the concept in more digestible bites. We cannot expect mass media to be changed overnight or expect wide audiences to automatically understand feminism.
Amy in “Trainwreck” is a character of compromise. But, in <em>any</em> realistic relationship — heterosexual, homosexual, platonic — sacrifices must be made. Amy is still unapologetically herself in the end, but she curbs her drinking to appropriate times when it won’t hurt anyone, and she is willing to remain monogamous in a committed relationship. Even in real life, Schumer as a writer and Apatow as a director had to compromise to produce a boundary-pushing, but still universally-appealing comedy. Compromise is not all bad; it’s reality and it’s necessary.
Beyond any social agenda, “Trainwreck” is tear-jerkingly funny and also tear-jerkingly poignant. At the root, the film is simply and consistently entertaining. At 34, Schumer is not by typical Hollywood standards “young.” But, she is youthful in her humor, bringing a breath of fresh air to stale rom-coms and poorly-written sitcoms that litter the media sphere and our attentions. Schumer doesn’t even purposely pose as a revolutionary figure; she simply aims to show the complexity behind all women — a reality check society needs today. “Trainwreck” is comedy, <em>quality</em>, and also social commentary.