Monday, 31 August 2015

Trainwreck; not the sequel to Unstoppable

Just as with Bridesmaids, there's an impulse to see Trainwreck as a game changer; oh, look, it's a movie with a woman at the centre, written by a woman, which messes with the traditional view of women in a romantic comedy. I am here to tell you not to give in to the impulse.

Trainwreck is great fun and a genuinely good comedy and it might even change men’s minds about things, but this is a man's movie. Specifically, it's Judd Apatow's movie. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I quite like Apatow's crusade to depict men as befuddled but nonetheless capable of emotional intelligence. Just because it's not true to the lives most of us experience doesn't mean it's not a good aspiration to put out there. As goals for men go, being sweet and trying to understand the world around you is a much better unrealistic role model than being a wisecracking murder machine.

It's just impossible to resist pointing out the obvious; that a woman has written a movie which is a comic exaggeration of aspects of her own life and it still fails the Bechdel Test. Yes, there's more than one named woman character, and yes, two or more woman characters have a conversation. Many conversations. And they're all about men, either men in particular (which Johnny Depp is the most bangable, or what’s wrong with their father or husband or boyfriend) or men in general (pretty much every conversation around the worktable at Amy's job).

And I don't know what to tell you to think about this; much like the real life it's trying to comment on, it's one of those things which is there, and you've got to decide for yourself whether this is just the way things are, or whether it's an outrage against human decency which cannot stand. I suspect that the whole joke of the movie is that Amy is acting just like a stereotypical man, and all the men are acting like stereotypical women, but that overall joke doesn't land properly because men acting like women, it turns out, is touching rather than ridiculous while Amy acting like a man plays like an extended slut-shaming than a critique of the male outlook. I'm not sure what they were trying to achieve, and so I can't even figure out what they've actually done in gender political terms. Hey; I'm a guy. We don't really get subtext.

It's still a good comedy. Amy Schumer can't really act (when someone is routinely out-acted by Lebron James it's not unfair to decide that acting is not their dominant hand), but it's her script so she's safe most of the time in the hands of dialogue which fits her comic persona. Tilda Swinton delivers either her second or third most terrifying performance (depending on whether you think that she's as scary in Michael Clayton as she was in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe), and Judd Apatow has strong form in getting sympathetic performances out of the most unlikely male casts so everyone over on the male side does a solid job. There's a moment near the end when Bill Hader is trying to explain how arguments are supposed to work which ought to become a permanent part of pre-marriage courses; he almost makes arguments sound like fun, he's so sincere in his belief that they're an opportunity, not something to be avoided.

Above all, it's funny. They had so much good material that the trailer is made out of the jokes they didn't use in the movie.

No comments: