Friday, June 17, 2016

Marxist Movie Reviews 08: Trainwreck (2015)

Marxist Movie Reviews attempts to look at modern and classic films from the perspective of what they say about society and social conflict.

The Plot: A single woman who drinks a lot and has sex with lots of men reaches turning points in her life and must decide if true love is the way to go.

The Best Part(s): A cameo by pro wrestler John Cena as one of the main character’s boyfriends. He’s got screen presence and a good sense of humor. He could probably follow fellow grappler The Rock into a career making movies and maybe even sitcoms.

This is not a terrible movie. If you’re sitting on the couch with nothing else to do, it’s perfectly acceptable. How you feel about Amy Schumer’s performance probably depends on how you feel about Amy Schumer the stand-up comic. The main structural problem I had with the movie is how it can’t decide if it wants to be an improvisational laugh-fest or a Louie-esque poignant journey into the life of a person. Call it the curse of Judd Apatow - do you put talented performers in front of a camera and just let them do their thing or spend some time following a script?

Although the movie is R-rated, the naughty bits aren’t especially shocking and don’t add anything to the story, which is a pretty simplistic tale whose moral is True Love = Settling Down With One Person. In The more I think about that message, the more shockingly retro this supposed modern raunch-fest of a movie is. Is it possible for someone to be single and happy? Not according to American mass-market entertainment, the rules of which this movie sticks to like glue. While the main character has freedom, health, a career, and (as the movie makes very clear) lots of no-attachment sex, it’s not enough.

It’s probably not fair to criticize this film for not being a Feminist story, as I don’t think the movie ever advertised itself as one. (BTW, the radio show This is Hell has an excellent interview with cultural critic Cultural critic Andi Zeisler in which she explains the difference between an empowered woman and a Feminist [i/v starts at 2:03:25]). Upon reflection, though, it’s pretty shocking how anti-Feminist it is. The story concerns a woman who is defined by men - in her case, her invalid father who years ago laid down a narrow set of rules of sexual conduct to his daughters, and the True Love she eventually decides to give up living her life for. A love who, not for nothing, happens to be a doctor (to “heal” the fallen woman?).

The selling point of the movie’s comedy, her ability to casually describe her sexual adventures to an audience in clinical detail is a trope that gets less and less shocking as the years go by. Although Schumer is an empowered performer and persona, the story she tells is far closer to Sleeping Beauty than Women Who Run With the Wolves, with ideas that have been in place since the Hayes Code was introduced in the 1930s.

Even in 2016, there’s something about a women freely partying and screwing whoever she feels like without consequences that strikes society as deeply troubling. True Love and monogamy must win out, and that can’t happen until The Whore is reigned in.

My Rating: 4/10 (“Didn’t Like It”)

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