“Trainwreck” Is A Romantic Comedy For People Who Hate Romantic Comedies
In “Trainwreck,” Amy Schumer, unintentional feminist firebrand and star on the rise, has done something no one saw coming. She’s written a traditional romantic comedy, with a starring role for herself that actually feels well-rounded and complete. “Trainwreck” is solidly a rom-com that adheresto the tropes set forth by its predecessors, but with the male and female roles reversed. Though there are a few missteps – and the third half of the film drags just a little bit until its charming conclusion – the movie stands on its own two feet as “chick flick” well worth your time.
Amy Schumer plays Amy, a woman with a fondness for drinks, one-hitters and one-night stands. She has an apartment of her own, and a job at a hilariously trashy and pitch-perfect men’s magazine called S’Nuff, edited by one seriously tarted-up Tilda Swinton, that she seems to be pretty good at. Like many a male rom-com love interest before her, she is allergic to intimacy, commitment and anything that lasts longer than a day or two. She is, in short, an asshole. An asshole in need of redemption. After Amy meets Aaron Conners (played by the always hilarious Bill Hader), the nebbishly charming sports medicine doctor she’s been assigned to write a story about, she uncomfortably submits to the trappings of a traditional rom-com montage, noting in a wry voiceover just how gross this whole thing is. The bottom eventually falls out of the whole thing, and then, like clockwork in the third act, is the redemption montage. Amy realizes that she’s been an asshole her whole life and comes around, determined to change her ways. Cue endearing final scene. Cue the extended makeout session as the camera pulls away, fading to black. Love saves the day.
When you look at “Trainwreck”‘s plot in the context of director Judd Apatow’s canon of comedies about the myriad ways a slovenly, wealthy white man can fuck up while his patient moral compass of a wife waits on the side, it’s clear how intentional this role reversal is. Amy (the character) is, at the beginning of the movie, a hot mess, albeit a successful one. She wakes up in a bed in Staten Island and does the ferry ride of shame home in her tiny skirt and pencil-thin stilettos, but she is not ashamed. Amy shies away from intimacy and commitment that isn’t purely sexual. Buzzfeed says that this makes her a “misogynist,” but I disagree. Amy doesn’t hate women. Being a misogynist and being an asshole are not mutually exclusive, but they’re not the same thing, either.
A brief aside: There is no reason to ask how “feminist” this movie is. Feminism has become a rubric against which we measure almost everything these days, more of a pop culture catchphrase than an actual practice. Amy Schumer might not have set out to make a movie that was feminist or postfeminist. She might have just wanted to make a movie that turned traditional romantic comedy tropes inside out. Maybe she wanted to make a movie about love. Who knows? Holding a movie to a standard that it wasn’t told it had to meet is a surefire way to set it up for failure. It doesn’t matter to me if “Trainwreck” is a feminist movie. Whether it’s good and funny and clever does.
The endgame in “Trainwreck” is love. Real, normal, relatable, attainable love, with a partner that is supportive and crinkly-eyed in the right way. It’s about meeting someone who’s funny and droll enough to keep up with your shit, but not so much of a doormat that they’ll lay down and let you stomp all over them. It’s about letting that person in. Bill Hader — tall, rumply-haired, nasal — plays a nice guy, but Aaron is also realistic. When Amy fucks up, he’s not afraid to let her know, but he doesn’t run off screaming into the night at the first sign of her indiscretion or imperfection. He is a fully realized adult, someone who understands that fights and mean things said after a late night are all things to be faced head on. As a romantic lead, the sexiest thing about Aaron is that he is a sensible and emotionally mature man with an apartment that he owns and the willingness to talk things out. For a legion of women who contend with the endless slog of swiping left on the rather slim pickings in their chosen metropolitan area, the kind of stability and kindness that Hader represents in this movie is worth its weight in gold.
“Trainwreck” is a movie that fetishizes emotional stability in a partner and celebrates love as the end goal. It’s cynical in its approach, but yields easily to a gooey, sentimental core. It’s a movie that is aware of the desire for independence and allows that desire to have space to breathe, to walk around. It’s a romantic comedy for people who say they don’t like romantic comedies, but secretly watch “Bridget Jones’ Diary” a few times a year, crying at all the right scenes. It’s a movie that lets women knows that it’s okay to be messy, which is a valuable lesson indeed.