Every so often a movie comes along that redefines a genre. A few years ago, Bridesmaids redefined the female-centered comedy and showed people that women can be just as funny as men while being raunchy. With Trainwreck comedian Amy Schumer tries to do the same thing to the romantic comedy by focusing on the comedy and letting the romance just happen.
Trainwreck should be a romantic comedy by definition. It hits all the tropes and is in general pretty paint by numbers in its execution. But, what makes it special, and why it has been getting such great press, is that Schumer plays the movie so close to reality.
Romantic comedies have always been the world of women. But not just women, a very specific idea of women and what women want. It’s a rather antiquated viewpoint. Women in these movies are traditionally soft, demure, and so in want of a man that marriage is their primary motivating factor while the men are generally hard-drinking, womanizing, anti-love, overgrown children. In the 90s this formula changed somewhat to allow women to be more like the men giving us films that portray women as single-mindedly career focused until a man melts her heart. While entertaining in a formulaic way, neither of these attitudes were particularly progressive nor positive in their portrayal of women.
Trainwreck on the other hand is portrays both sexes as flawed and just looking to be happy. Writer/Star Amy Schumer takes her stand-up persona to the extreme as a woman who drinks to excess and sleeps around only to be surprised by the possibility of love with Bill Hader, a sports doctor who is the subject of an article she’s writing. The relationship is treated as a slow evolution as opposed to the typical meet-cute format that has become so tired. And, the relationship is not shown to “save” her or “fix” her in any way, simply as a thing that makes her happy.
It’s not a perfect movie though. It is very slow moving. Some of the humor seems forced if still funny. Schumer’s subplot with her father (Colin Quinn) is over long and doesn’t really add anything to either the movie or to the characters. In general I found the movie to be very thin- like a good idea that hadn’t been fleshed out enough.
That said, I think this movie does a lot of good for the genre. Romcoms get a really bad rap for how they portray…everything. Trainwreck does a lot to try to show a modern relationship as relationships really are – confusing, messy, and a melding of two disparate people’s lives. And, while Schumer is not exactly a feminist hero, this is the first movie in this genre that doesn’t go to any extremes in its characterizations and ideas. Everyone is simply who they are and if the relationship works out, great, if not, that’s ok too. The plot of the movie doesn’t really force you to root for either outcome too strongly it only asks that you think everyone gets what they want. Which is why I think this movie is being lauded so highly as- despite its trappings- it’s not even a romantic comedy, it’s a comedy first. It also happens to feature a romance and that is the most refreshing part of this movie. B-