The Brie Larson Project Part VI – Trainwreck

Posted: July 9, 2018 in Brie Larson Project

No play-on-words title this time, which is by design (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). I honestly think that the movie’s title reflects the way I feel about it.

Brie would have one more supporting role before turning heads with Room, this time as Amy Schumer’s more-responsible sister in Trainwreck, the comedy that I originally totally thought was a Schumer biopic. In fact, here’s how little I knew: I had read an interview with Schumer where she said she and her sister wrote it together, and I thought that Larson actually was her sister. I guess that means she did a good job?

The reason I thought that this may have been a biopic is because Schumer’s stand-up was always to play the kind-of intelligent yet morally bankrupt party girl. Which she did really well and with great success. So well that one naturally wonders if it was sort of akin to saying, “That guy from Jack-ass sure does know how to play a jack-ass.”

I’m not here to debate whether or not Amy Schumer the Person slept with a lot of guys, but I can say for a fact that she made a movie about a woman named Amy who has slept with a lot of guys. In fact, she got around so much that when her boyfriend Bill Hader tells her that he slept with three women, she notes that she also slept with three women. Movie Amy is supposed to, I suppose, find redemption at the end when she realizes that  Hader, her doctor boyfriend, is actually a nice guy and she wants to be with him, and I assume only him but that’s never really made clear.

Before I start tearing the whole movie apart, let me say that I realize that this is a comedy written by Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, so it’s not meant to be a moral compass. And it’s actually a very funny movie. But I can’t help but ask the universe whether it was unfortunate timing that it happened to come out a few years before the current Time’s Up/Me Too movement that is permeating Hollywood, or if the unabashed “this is how women really are” attitude on display here helped spur the whole trend on.

For anyone interested in a white male’s opinion on this subject, I have to say that, despite the fact that this movie is only three years old at this point, it is already starting to feel kind of dated and crass, like when you watch people smoking in the office on Mad Men and wonder how could we have been so ignorant. It’s just a feeling I get, but there is something here that just tells me that when it comes to the current female empowerment in movies, this egg came before the chicken, and possibly even set the movement back a few months. Thankfully, Schumer’s next real movie, Snatched, was such a turd that no one really even remembers this one.

Trainwreck tried to take some cues from Bridesmaids, with its whole “Girls can have fun, too” thing. The problem I see with that is that Bridesmaids focused on a group of funny and different characters who just happened to be women, while Trainwreck is mostly about one wayward, free-wheeling, dope-smoking, hard-drinking floozie, and hergiphy struggles through the world. There are story threads about her family and her job, but mostly it’s about how she has trouble in a real relationship because she’s never been in one before. We kind of learn everything we need to know about her early on when her gym rat boyfriend (played amazingly by John Cena) dumps her, and she seems surprised even though she was sleeping around and couldn’t even sit through a date movie with him without going outside to smoke weed.

But I get that all that is comedy fodder, and not meant to tell the audience that the main character of this movie is kind of horrible. It doesn’t really matter, anyway, because she is then sent to interview a sports surgeon played by Hader for the trashy magazine she writes for, and we immediately sense chemistry because… well, we don’t. In fact, she instantly judges him because he’s a successful surgeon to professional athletes, and she thinks sports are kind of dumb (which the movie perpetuates a little by making LeBron James kind of a weirdo, but he plays it so well.)

Still, he must think she’s all right because he asks her out to dinner, and she of course has a few drinks and goes home with him. After sleeping with him, she becomes the worst house guest ever by telling him that he’s breathing wrong and keeping her awake and he’s also not allowed to touch her in his own bed. But, hey, comedy, right?

Maybe because this guy is a little inexperienced and nerdy, he keeps seeing her, and even helps her ailing father, played by Colin Quinn. He is repaid for all of this by Amy when she makes fun of all of his patients, leaves his awards ceremony to take a phone call and smoke more weed, and gets mad at him when he tells her he loves her. In retrospect, she was pretty terrible and he should have run away and never looked back, but since he’s only had sex with three people, I guess we’re supposed to believe that he’s just a sap. (Or he saw the inner beauty. Your level of cynicism can decide.)

Well, ok, I think what we’re supposed to believe is that it was just her family ethos to be cynical and judgmental and generally unhappy. Her interactions with her father and sister definitely lend credence to that theory. However, Brie Larson lends a lot of weight to what could be seen as simply the buzzkill role. We gather that they may have grown up the same, but Brie has matured faster than Amy, and even married a nice single father (although I agree with Amy when she makes fun of the kid for being a total dork.) Not only is Brie more mature in her relationships, but she has come to the realization that their father isn’t really a nice guy, so doesn’t feel so bad when he is put into assisted living after a lifetime of drug use and they have to clean out his junk. Amy insists on keeping some of it for sentimental reasons, and Brie doesn’t understand what she’s clinging to and wants to heave it all.

The relationship between the sisters is really the only one in the movie that has any meaning or depth. And I know this is a Brie Larson column, but I’ll give Schumer her props on this one, too. Most likely because Larson was a stand-in for Schumer’s real sister, and because the two real-life sisters wrote most of the movie themselves, there is great chemistry between them, and the dialogue seems real and not like it was written for a movie. One of my favorite scenes, in fact, is when it is revealed that Larson is pregnant with a girl, and the two sisters share a feeling of horror, knowing how hard their childhood was as young girls. I also like the scene in which Quinn is not even teasing but out-and-out insulting Larson’s stepson, and hoping that her biological child will be better, so that he can have a “real” grandchild, and she responds, “They’re both your grandchildren, goddammit!” and storms off. Quinn dies not long after, so as far as we know, those may have been her last words to him. Heavy stuff.

Trainwreck

Now, I have been ripping this movie apart, and yes, called a three year-old movie “dated,” but there is an element at play here that would lead me to call Schumer and Apatow geniuses if I thought that they were actually aiming for this (and who knows? Maybe they did, in your opinion.) Here is my theory:

If you choose to delve into it, you could see this movie as the swan song of the male-aggrandizing romantic comedy, and even the demise of Colin Quinn’s bigoted, alcoholic, aging playboy as the actual death of that genre. Video store shelves used to be filled with movies where no matter how badly the male protagonist screws up, the female lead forgives him and takes him back because he made some stupid romantic gesture that would only work in a movie (Screw you, Lloyd Dobbler!). Schumer and company have flipped the script here and made the female protagonist the one with all the flaws, and the one that makes the grand, only-in-the-movies gesture, and the male lead is the one who takes her back while the pop song plays us out.

But if they did want to make this the end of the male-aggrandizing romantic comedy, they certainly went out guns blazing. To me, Amy is too flawed to be forgiven that quick, and to be perfectly honest, Hader doesn’t really even forgive her because he didn’t seem all that mad at her in the first place. They had a fight, and it was suggested they take some time apart, during which she is fired and almost sleeps with her intern, and I’m pretty sure she totally would have slept with that intern if he weren’t so weird and said things like “cradle my bonch.” So, yeah, maybe if Hader had seen that display, he would have just stayed away, but he didn’t, so he took her back, with almost no prompting. Other than to throw out her weed and vodka, Amy didn’t really repent at all. All she did was dance to Billy Joel and jump off a trampoline to convince him. Personally, I think this was better when Bridget Jones ran out into the cold in her underwear, fourteen years earlier.

The good news is that this was a big move for Brie Larson’s career. She herself even says this was a big boost for her, and states that there were some raw moments on set between her and Schumer. I doubt that she (or any woman) would agree with my assessment of Trainwreck, but if the movie existed just for one reason, it was so that we could see that this Larson kid could actually act. And, really, so can Lebron.

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