REVIEW: Trainwreck

4 08 2015

Trainwreck PosterAt roughly the midpoint of “Trainwreck,” writer Amy Schumer sets up a remarkable parallel between two scenes at the same baby shower.  The character Amy, played by Schumer herself, has to endure a brutal game of “Skeletons in the Closet” where posh young mothers spill dark secrets … that actually reveal themselves as pathetically and predictably tame.

Meanwhile, Amy’s boyfriend, Bill Hader’s Aaron Conners, recounts details of the many athletes he has helped rehabilitate in his sports medicine practice.  He rattles of name after name to the same awe-struck reaction from a crowd of unfamiliar men … until he drops the name Alex Rodriguez.  Among this set of New Yorkers, this blasphemy inspires a sudden outburst of profanity.  But then, Aaron goes back to some more agreeable athletes, and the peanut gallery resumes the standard call-and-response.

These scenes, juxtaposed as they are, communicate a central tenet of “Trainwreck.”  Both genders, when taking cultural stereotypes of gender to the extreme ends of their performance, deserve mockery for their folly.  (This also includes John Cena, who briefly appears as Amy’s bodybuilding boyfriend who talks about the gym like many women talk about the nail salon.)  Schumer’s feminist intervention into the romantic comedy genre aims to level the playing field for men and women, not by putting the latter on any kind of pedestal but through suggesting the common humanity that unites them.

Her on-screen persona in “Trainwreck” arrives at the perfect moment, a time where many female characters are either monotonically strong or practically invisible and silent.  The “approachable” Amy, as her boss (played by a bronzed Tilda Swinton) condescendingly deems her, is a romantic comedy heroine cut from the cloth of contemporary society.  The hard-drinking, truth-telling, free-wheeling character benefits from the assertiveness in romance that women gained through the sexual revolution, yet she also pushes up against the lingering constraints left unconquered by that unfinished movement.  Amy also embodies the spirit of a generation scared to death of commitment, an era when the only thing scarier than the sea of possibilities is the choice to settle on one of them.

She meets her match in Aaron, an equally plain-spoken person who falls for Amy as she profiles him for the men’s magazine S’nuff.  The big difference, though, is that he possesses self-confidence where she shields her insecurities with self-deprecation.  Aaron, notably, never becomes a human incarnation of a “Mr. Wonderful” doll.  While exceedingly nice and admirable, Amy exposes a few of the buttons he might not like people pushing.

“Trainwreck” does not place Amy in the position of damsel in distress, nor does it make her some kind of prize for winning once tamed.  Amy’s impetus to change, although partially spurred by Aaron, seems to derive from an internal desire to stop numbing herself to the world.  And even in her triumphs (including the grand finale), Schumer always makes sure her Amy still shows some amusing, endearing flaws.  She is allowed to have flawed, circular logic, and it does not mean she is crazy; it just means we embrace her all the more.

Read the rest of this entry »

REVIEW: More Than a Game

26 05 2010

More Than a Game” fulfills all the basic needs for a good historical documentary (even when that history is seven years ago).  It gives us good perspectives on exactly what happened.

But it doesn’t go beyond the ordinary.  I didn’t really feel the emotion pumping through the veins of this movie.  I didn’t feel inspired or tense in the team’s big games.  Heck, I really didn’t feel anything.  I acknowledge that it’s not an inspirational sports movie, and it isn’t concocted to get all those warm feelings out of our system.  But “More Than a Game” was as emotionless and matter-of-fact as Tiger Woods’ public apology.

It was cool to see LeBron James as a high schooler; it was cool to see how “the king” became the king; it was cool to see what the Sports Illustrated cover has the power to do for someone.  Yes, it’s cool to see all of these things.  But eventually, cool gets old.  I wanted something deeper; I just saw basketball, nothing more than a game.  This documentary gives the scope of a reality show, and that’s kind of disconcerting.

Metaphorically speaking, “More Than a Game” is like that little kid who hangs on the rope dividing the shallow end from the deep end at the local pool.  There is depth in sight for the kid, but he plays it safe instead and sticks with what he knows.  I felt like this documentary was on the cusp of making some very interesting revelations, but it ultimately decides to explore what it knows best.

And by no means do I mean to imply that the motives or filmmakers had shallow intentions.  They explore the lives of each of the “Fab Five” players and what they brought to the team that helped propel them to greatness.  But that’s all just information, and “More Than a Game” becomes all facts and no analysis.  I wanted more from the movie than an ESPN highlight reel and some interview snippets, which can be entertaining and enjoyable at times.  It’s just not a premise that can sustain an hour and a half.  B /

Random Factoid #20 / An Experiment

17 08 2009

A major plus about the WordPress platform is the ability to see how people got to your blog.  I am often amused by the searches that send people my way, and I check it multiple times each day.  For instance, someone searched “Pee in Sink” and ended up here last week.  So, to see what people really search for on blogs, I am going to be tagging this post with some very random things that have nothing to do with what I am saying.

My inspiration for this is Judd Apatow for writing Leo Koenig in “Funny People.”  Leo records a YouTube video with him playing with cats because anything with “Cute Cuddly Kittens” in the title gets millions of views.  He attaches it to his account, and he postulates that people will click on his profile and check out his comedy clips.  It was one of the funniest parts of the movie, and thankfully they posted it on YouTube.

I’ll post the results of what got me the most searches in a week or so.  What’s your vote for the tag that will get me the most hits?  Comment, please!