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Judd Apatow’s ‘Trainwreck’ inverts gender norms, yields to rom-com clichés
Amy Schumer and Bill Hader star in Judd Apatow's "Trainwreck." (Mary Cybulski, Universal Studios)

Judd Apatow’s ‘Trainwreck’ inverts gender norms, yields to rom-com clichés

Writer Amy Schumer and director Judd Apatow invert the tired gender roles of the classic “playboy doesn’t believe in love but ends up with his soul mate” storyline in their hilarious new movie “Trainwreck.” Unfortunately, though interesting, this gender play is the only new change to an otherwise stale formula. Regardless, Schumer and Apatow make quite a humorous pair, and “Trainwreck,” despite its conventionality proves a raunchily entertaining summer film.

Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) — an independent woman who loves to drink, smoke pot and sleep around — believes herself to be someone who cannot and will not fall in love. When Amy is young, her dad (Colin Quinn) teaches her and her sister Kim (Brie Larson) that “monogamy isn’t realistic.” Now a full-grown woman, Amy has followed in her father’s footsteps, while Kim has started a family with Tom (Mike Birbiglia), a nerdy guy with an equally geeky son.

Amy writes for a men’s magazine, and her careless lifestyle soon gets thrown out of balance when her boss, Dianna (Tilda Swinton), assigns her to pen a feature on sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Predictably enough, the two end up hitting it off and — contrary to Amy’s beliefs — start to fall in love.

The film starts off strong, instantly revealing Amy’s unapologetically bold character and a plethora of hilariously uncomfortable situations. The humor ranges from vulgar to witty and is consistently laugh out loud funny.  “Trainwreck,” however, falls victim to an imbalance in jokes. It seems that some scenes’ only purpose is to deliver gags, whereas others are sparsely void of any laughs.

The refreshing change in gender stereotypes also gives the movie some edge. Whereas many of the females freak out at the slightest sign of commitment, the males aim for it. When Aaron anxiously asks Amy on a date, Amy and her co-worker Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) assume he’s dialed the wrong number. For them, any potential commitment is both foreign and undesirable. LeBron does a surprisingly great job as Aaron’s protective, penny-pinching best friend, often interrogating Amy to make sure she has good intentions. “Don’t hurt him,” he warns, like a stereotypical female best friend. Even Amy’s early boneheaded boyfriend, Steven (John Cena, who apparently improvises quite well), longs to settle down, hoping to “rule the CrossFit kingdom” beside his “CrossFit queen.” “Trainwreck” begins as a promising film with hilarious, if not perfect, dialogue and smart and interesting gender reversal.

Unfortunately, the movie starts to lose steam when, later, it begins to shift from absurdist comedy to straight romance. Instead of laughable, awkward circumstances, the latter half of the film tends to focus on the progression of Amy and Aaron’s relationship. In place of the confident, brash female lead introduced in the film’s beginning, we get a lovesick, guy-chasing Amy. Eventually Amy even ends up running back to Aaron — in a scene rife with manufactured tension — in order to prove that she can change herself for him. Her initial innovative, independent persona becomes domesticated and the typical gender stereotypes re-emerge in full force, taking away much of the film’s edge.

For those who are well-versed in Schumer’s more progressive humour — as showcased on her television show “Inside Amy Schumer” — “Trainwreck” is, ultimately, a disappointment. A vulgar female lead should no longer be the only thing a movie needs to be considered new and transgressive.

For anyone who’s just looking for an entertaining adult movie, however, Schumer certainly delivers a top-notch performance, supported by special appearances (Chris Evert, Amar’e Stoudemire, Marv Albert, Daniel Radcliffe) and a skillful star-studded cast (Randall Park, Jon Glaser, Ezra Miller). Most of the film’s actors began in comedy, and they manage to flawlessly incorporate both subtle and overt jokes. And Schumer, of course, is a flawless lead. It almost feels like Schumer is just being herself, rather than actually acting.The entire movie is both brilliantly acted and casted.

“Trainwreck” may not be the promised dynamic blockbuster, but Schumer definitely wows in her first leading film role. Au contraire to the name, “Trainwreck” is anything but.

Contact Lisa Hao at lisa.hao13 ‘at’ gmail.com.