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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Trainwreck movie review: all aboard

Trainwreck green light

A breath of half-nasty, half-nice fresh air, set somewhere near the intersection between a parody of a romantic comedy and a straight-up example of one.
I’m “biast” (pro): growing fonder of Amy Schumer; desperate for stories about women

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Somewhere near the intersection between a parody of a romantic comedy and a straight-up example of the genre, albeit with an unusually frank honesty, is Trainwreck. Amy Schumer (who also wrote the script) is Amy, a barely disguised version of her slightly younger self, she has admitted; the character is all casual sex and no commitment… like, not even of the staying-till-the-morning brand of commitment. She has a kind-of boyfriend in Steven (an unexpectedly amusing John Cena: 12 Rounds), though he doesn’t realize that they’re not exclusive, and a kind-of new flame in Aaron (Bill Hader: Inside Out), though he doesn’t realize what a mess she is and keeps pursuing her anyway. Rom-com clichés come in for a beating, like how all the guys here are the sweet, sensitive, romantic ones (which I think is actually more true in reality, though movies rarely broach this); the standard falling-in-love montage is absolutely hilarious thanks to Amy’s narration, which is disgusted by how repulsively hackneyed she and Aaron are in their cutesy-couple behavior. But there is candid awkwardness and pain here, too, of the sort that we don’t usually see in these sorts of flicks: a woman’s perspective on sex that’s just not working is as funny as it is brutal (even as the guy remains clueless to the problem), but Amy’s low opinion of herself — “What’s wrong with you that you want to be with me?” she eventually demands of Aaron — edges closer to raw reality than many women (and men, probably, too) would like to admit. An outrageous performance by an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel), as Amy’s boss at a misogynist New York City men’s magazine, is just icing on the cake. In a movie world that let women be as well-rounded and as messed up as men are, Trainwreck would be run-of-the-mill. But until we’re there, it’s a breath of half-nasty, half-nice fresh air.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Trainwreck for its representation of girls and women.

green light 4 stars

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Trainwreck (2015)
US/Can release: Jul 17 2015
UK/Ire release: Aug 14 2015

MPAA: rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex, sex references)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Lennon


    And the woman made the grand romantic gesture to win the guy back at the end! When does THAT ever happen in movies? So good.

  • RogerBW

    The main problem I see with this is that it hews too closely to the romcom orthodoxy that anything other than a stable monogamous relationship is a Bad Thing. Would it have been so terrible for our heroine to decide in the end that, actually, no, she doesn’t need to change her entire lifestyle and conform to the template?

  • Dale Snow

    We also get glimpses of why Amy might be a little messed up (a less than perfect but still hilarious dad) that seem human and compelling, instead of the default setting that naturally all women are crazy for no special reason, that’s just how they are.
    I think it’s a rom-com parody on training wheels — the more of them you’ve seen, the more “Trainwreck” might help you to be willing to recognize that the genre is, shall we say, a trifle ossified at this point.

  • Matt Clayton

    Tilda Swinton was an absolute scene-stealer. That first scene where they’re in the conference room bouncing around these awful story ideas, and she brutally cuts down Randall Park and Vanessa Bayer within a few minutes of each other.

    Amy Schumer was a true surprise. She and Brie Larson had nice sibling chemistry, and Schumer did well with the more dramatic scenes. I could’ve done without the more grosser comedic bits, but “Trainwreck” was a nice twist on the romantic-comedy formula.

  • I get where you’re coming from, but in the specific way that Amy is written as a character, it’s clear that her life is not happy and that her promiscuity is a function of her low self-esteem and her dad’s influence.

    We could certainly use a movie like the one you describe, but it would be a different movie.

  • Any chance you’ll do a female-gazing profile on Bill Hader?

  • So you did! He wasn’t on my radar then, so I didn’t remember.

  • Do see *Skeleton Twins* if you haven’t already.

  • I finally got to see it a few weeks ago, after missing it in theaters. I loved it (and him).

  • I found this movie’s treatment of female sexuality gross and infuriating.

    The movie opens with a montage of Amy having sex with different men; she wakes up in an unknown room and fears she might have slept with a teenager, she cringes as her boyfriend seems to have gay fantasies while having sex with her and she pretends to be asleep during a cunnilingus in order to avoid having sex with the guy. A second later, the narration starts and she says “don’t judge me, I’m a sexual girl and I like it”.

    No, you don’t. I’ve just seen it; you don’t enjoy a single second of those sex scenes.

    The treatment of characters of color wasn’t much better; there’s the obligatory Black Best Friend, the Emasculated Asexual Asian Man, the Black Nurse the father accuses of using magic to cure people,… None of it is funny.

    Tilda Swinton steals every scene she’s in, Amy Schumer and Bill Hader have a lot of charm, but that’s not enough to make this over-long movie enjoyable. Just save your money and watch MAN UP (Lake Bell, Simon Pegg) instead.

  • No, you don’t. I’ve just seen it; you don’t enjoy a single second of those sex scenes.

    Right. She’s lying to herself.

    Just save your money and watch MAN UP

    You mean the movie that portrays stalking as adorable and inevitable?

    No thanks.

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