Rebel Without A Cock: Trainwreck

Rebel Without A Cock:

Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, written by and starring Amy Schumer

Watching the bourgeois heart that is revealed beating at the core of this mediocre film is like watching that tiresome James Dean “classic” for the first time. You have the same bewildered sense of trying to find the rebellious streak in a scene about driving cars off cliffs. This isn’t a film about empowerment of the feminine (which it very loudly proclaims itself to be). This is a film about self-indulgence. It’s worse: it’s a self-indulgent film about self-indulgence.

I am again swimming upstream against a tide of positive critiques of this movie, holding the banner that says “bullshit!” Even Christopher Orr in the Atlantic, one of the few magazines left in the USA for literate people, can’t bring himself to proclaim that Amy Schumer has no clothes, because, for much of the film, she, actually… has no clothes on, and YOU’D BETTER NOT MENTION that she’s not that attractive a sight. It would be cultural suicide to suggest, when talking about a film that throws stereotypes in your face like pies at a country fair booth, that the one break from stereotype it actually accomplishes is the one in which women who don’t look like models cavort with men who look like Hercules.

Yes, there are a few good jokes: I like LeBron James gently parodying his own stardom, as the 100-million dollar athlete who never picks up the cheque. There’s a great visual gag in the opening, where Schumer’s character, returning from a one-night stand on (oh, shame!) Staten Island leans against the railing of the famous ferry like Kate Winslet in Titanic, and the camera pulls back to reveal that she’s actually at the stern of the boat, going backwards. (That helicopter shot must be one of the more expensive visual gags in recent Hollywood history.) And the slapstick gag at the end where Schumer does a face-plant makes me laugh for the same reason Inuit laugh at people when they slip on the ice (i.e., it’s the funniest joke available). But the sex joke told six times is overkill by six times… Please, ladies, the “I’m staring at the ceiling bored while the guy orgasms” trope is now the equivalent of the “dad gets the water-toy in the crotch” bit in all of those not-funny family comedies.

The whole venture has the stink of a dishonest vanity project: Look at the hunks I can go to bed with! Look, I got sports stars to be in the film with me! Look, I put on the gear of the Knicks’ cheerleading squad and actually did some of their moves! Look, we talked the Harry Potter guy into shooting some scenes for a film-within-a-film that parodies pretentious cinema! (Without, unfortunately, actually parodying any pretentious cinema.)

This movie has more to do with Schumer’s utterly middle of the road fantasies than any edgy material that’s going anywhere risky. Her love interest (Bill Hader) is a sports surgeon (thus an excuse to get as many pro athletes to do a vanity turn on the screen as possible) who evidently is virtue personified because he volunteers for Doctors Without Borders (that would be “medecins sans frontieres” for those of you who like to acknowledge history). Well, we’re not going to spend any of the budget going to any of those places where doctors actually DO that brave and difficult work; presumably there aren’t enough Starbucks franchises in those places to make a decent macchiato for the cast and crew. So let’s just concentrate on Dr. Hader’s celeb patients, and take his seven-figure income as given for our modern Cinderella. (Cinderella’s name, in the original German, is closer to Cinder-slut. Not a bad reference for this character.)

The film can’t get through two minutes without doing that LOUDLY MOUTHING AT YOU FROM BEHIND THE BACK OF ITS HAND “LOOK, I’M BEING POLITICALLY INCORRECT NOW! AREN’T I BOLD???”  Sadly, the film is (I shudder to say it) actually POLITICALLY INCORRECT, like, in a bad way. The black guy in the theatre tells the muscle-head boyfriend to keep his bitch in line; the ultima bitch editor of the pretentious magazine that the heroine works for is, of course, English (Tilda Swinton, the only really brilliant performance in the film); the street person who is Amy’s pal is charming and apparently really likes his life of homelessness. He is never invited into her apartment, (obviously!!), but in her redeeming moment of discovering that she is actually a bourgeois mediocrity, she gives him all her leftover booze and drugs. Way to help the homeless, girl. Kinda like Doctors Without Borders, NYC-style.

The writing in this film attempts satire; the trouble is that satire can’t be done with an instrument no sharper than a cricket bat. If this is what serves modern America for satire, let’s go back into our libraries and read Swift, or for that matter, Lenny Bruce. Dig up the old Python videos and watch their grainy scenes on an old VCR. Palin and company created more intelligent comedy slapping each other with a dead fish than this film has in its two-hour (yawn) duration.

Amy Schumer is now a very famous person who is bound to become more famous. She has achieved fame partly by declaring her right to proclaim her womanhood by her own definition. Well and good. If she has so little consciousness that she can confuse this highly conventional rom-com with edgy social commentary, she needs to consult some text books. As for Judd Apatow, he’s made some of the best film comedies in this generation by taking a fresh look at American cultural assumptions. This ain’t one of them.

Published by kennethattheatrepublic

Playwright, actor, director at THEATrePUBLIC, an Alberta-based Canadian theatre company. Retired from a 31-year career teaching at college/university. Now devoting myself to world travel, music, wide writing, and freelance theatre work

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