July 21, 2015

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE (profanity alert):

Underneath the Laughs, 'Trainwreck' Is Just Another Regressive Rom Com (EILEEN JONES, 7/21/15, In These Times)


[K]eep that in mind when I say that, though I laughed loudly at a number of points, I didn't actually like the movie. Halfway through, I was appalled to find myself sitting through a real, genuine, regressive romantic comedy, which is a film genre I've avoided like the plague ever since the Nora Ephron scourge began in the late 1980s. [...]

The Trainwreck of the title refers to Amy Schumer's character, also named Amy, who drinks a lot, smokes plenty of pot, has a lot of sex with many different men, and works at a vile men's magazine that publishes articles like "Ugliest Celebrities Under Six." It is made painfully clear that the sex is part of her dysfunction, like the alcoholism, and will have to be brought under control. After all, her approach to sexual behavior is a legacy from her embittered father who, after breaking up with their mother so he could pursue a more varied sex life, led his little daughters in a chant of "Monogamy isn't realistic!"

On assignment, Amy interviews a sweet-natured sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader) and, in spite of her reluctance, gets drawn into a monogamous relationship. But it's a rocky road that soon ends in a break-up, explicitly because of her excesses. She's further punished with a death in the family and career disaster. This all culminates in a scene of Amy sobbing, "I'm not okay--I'm kind of broken," to her straight-laced sister who's presented as virtuously married and pregnant.

Cue the montage of the protagonist getting her act together. This includes waltzing into a new job as a writer at Vanity Fair. Hey, all you struggling writers out there, it's just that easy, if you'll only stop drinking, smoking pot and having sex with many partners!

Judd Apatow, the director of Trainwreck, likes this kind of montage. See Knocked Up, for example, for the same kind of "maturing" process as the protagonist transforms his life overnight by embracing the Big Three of middle-class respectability: marriage, parenthood and a good, solid job (which he's in no way qualified for), a job of the sort that is disappearing from America like a fading mirage. By now Apatow is a comedy pestilence, breaking out like a rash everywhere laughs are sought. He's popularized a formula of profane, speciously frank talk about contemporary American mores that never really reckons with our mad culture in any incisive way, and always affirms the dullest, most conventional values in the end. 

I was startled by Trainwreck's entire plotline.

Posted by at July 21, 2015 1:31 PM
  

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