Why All Women Should Go See Trainwreck

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Has anyone ever had a summer quite as golden as Amy Schumer? Her born-for-our-viral age Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, which has magnificently tackled rape, birth control, and the hordes of trolls who whine that she’s not hot enough to be on TV, just racked up seven Emmy nominations. (In May, it also won a Peabody Award.) I could listen to her Glamour Award acceptance speech — “I’m probably, like, 160 pounds right now, and I could catch a dick whenever I want” — on remix any Saturday night. She was naked on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, bathing in a sea of minibar booze bottles, and appears on the August cover of GQ in Princess Leia’s metal bathing suit, sucking on C-3P0’s finger. There have been one trillion articles written about Schumer as a welcome, walking embodiment of rowdy, righteous, giving-zero-fucks humor.

So what a surprise to get acquainted with her softer, more grounded side in Trainwreck, the romantic comedy she wrote and stars in. Despite its title, and all the drunk and horny promise of the trailer, the movie is not as outrageous or in-your-face as her fans might expect. But its sweet core of a middle doesn’t make it any less satisfying. It turns out Amy Schumer, despite all the breathless adoration of her ballsy schtick, deserves even more credit than she’s given.

Schumer stars as Amy (the story is loosely based on the comedian's own sloppy dating misadventures), a girl hungry for the physical release of sex but repulsed by the idea of real intimacy. She is the daughter of an alcoholic, and she's careening towards her own rock bottom. She can be careless and unkind, like when she breaks up with a guy who wants to marry her and is casually irritated by his need to have a conversation about it.

The great pleasure of Trainwreck, though, is how comfortable the film is with its star’s enormous flaws. Her story doesn't reach toward apology, but rather self-acceptance. And, much like The Mindy Project, which makes exuberant use of its creator’s very specific and genuine appeal, her character is so honest and recognizable that you’ll be struck by how heartbreakingly rare it still is in 2015 for a female-driven Hollywood movie to ring true.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Schumer has the guts to risk playing “unlikable,” that horrible word that never seems to be applied to male movie characters. It's heartening that she has the clout to do so (though having Judd Apatow at the help probably helped assuage any uptight studio suit's nerves).
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

What I found to be the true revelation of Trainwreck is just how beautiful an actor Schumer is. It’s not the outrageousness of her character that’s going to stick with you after the credits roll, but her vulnerability. It’s in Amy’s sober moments, like when she mourns a loved one, or when she panics that she might actually be falling for Bill Hader’s good-egg doctor character, that you realize how much more there is to Amy Schumer than playing a charismatic trainwreck. (I imagine it’s the bane of comedic actors’ existence when people marvel that they have dramatic chops too. Go watch Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins, or Bill Murray in anything, and let's quit yapping about how funny people can tap into hurting souls, too.)

On her own press rounds, Schumer loves taking gleeful shots at her physical self. Last year, during an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, she jokingly described her shock at being allowed to star in her own movie. “I thought they would just cast Kate Middleton or an Upton, like, a Kate," she said. "Like, ‘Let’s get that girl into acting where she belongs,' and I would just be on set as a writer, with, like, a laptop and a messy bun, just being like, ‘Um, Miss Upton, the line is ...’ And she’d be like, ‘Why is there a garden gnome on set?’ But no, they put me in it. And I was so surprised. And then everybody was like, ‘But stop eating. You promise?’”

Letterman shushed what he took as self-flagellation, but I think what Schumer is doing during these moments is flipping a giant middle finger to all those idiots out there, whether sitting behind their laptops in basements or at Hollywood desks, who still think the symmetry of a woman’s face and the size her waist determines her worth.

Every time a movie starring a woman does well, you hear these milquetoast promises from Hollywood that it will start doing better by the female audience. The resounding success of someone like Amy Schumer, the unstoppable rise of Melissa McCarthy, the ease and swag of Jada Pinkett Smith (who steals the show in Magic Mike XXL), the thrill of seeing the new trailer for Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s Sisters, suggests not that the industry is suddenly doing right by women, but that these bold, shrewd, give-zero-fucks women are doing right by themselves.

Keep coming to the table, girls. You promise?

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