As it turns out, replacing the protagonist of all those “bachelor grows up and settles down” comedies with a woman isn’t as clever as it sounds. At best, it’s soft feminism. At worst, it’s unintentionally misogynistic.
Following on from the likes of 40-Year-Old Virgin and Bridesmaids, director Judd Apatow’s latest effort, Trainwreck, feels like an experiment. Can you make a movie out of Amy Schumer’s stage persona – an entitled New Yorker hilariously unaware of her own privilege? The answer isn’t as straightforward as some might hope.
It’s easy to see why Apatow agreed to make this movie, the first he’s directed but not written. Schumer’s premise is a strong one, following an unapologetically hedonistic and successful woman through the trials and tribulations of being 30-something in New York. As the lead, Schumer expertly mines the minutiae of a thirty-something’s life for comedy whilst avoiding any moralising about a busy sex life, use of substances and selfish living.
The film is also pleasantly unconventional. As the leads, Schumer and Bill Hader have a refreshingly real-life look, one reinforced by cameo’s from sculpted Hollywood celebs like John Cena and Brie Larson. These are characters who feel rounded and real, albeit very cosmopolitan.
But Trainwreck fails to deliver on what begins as an antithesis to Bridget Jones. Instead, the film falls into the worn-out “girl-needs-a-good-man-to-be-complete” territory.
Perhaps this would have been forgiveable in the 80s or 90s, but in 2015 Trainwreck feels like a squandered opportunity. 2009’s 500 Days of Summer proved our generation can laugh whilst accepting an anticlimactic ending, because it served the story. Trainwreck, however, isn’t as brave.
The plot meanders, a hallmark of Apatow, but ends predictably. In fact, the ending leaves all of the subplots and character explorations feeling like a bad attempt at slight of hand, a sort of “Look! Good Characters! Please ignore the generic central story!”
The film left me asking: Why is it so hard to make a feminist movie? Why do women who enjoy sex and partying have to be reformed? You could make the argument that at least in Trainwreck this is the choice of the main character, but why does that choice involve chasing the “perfect man”?
The end result isn’t a train-wreck by any means. Instead, it’s like being sat in a train compartment on the Orient Express, only for someone to let off a huge fart.
Image Credit – Trainwreck by Universal Pictures and Apatow Productions