Where Exactly is the Trainwreck in Trainwreck?

In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer plays a moderately successful magazine writer, based in Manhattan, who likes to party. She drinks a bit more than is good for her. She dotes on her philandering dad. She occasionally locks horns with her happily married sister. Above all, she hooks up with a parade of well-endowed, muscly men who sometimes want more in the way of true love than she’s able to give.

We’re supposed to think that this last habit in particular makes her the trainwreck of the title–a self-destructive commitment-phobe hurtling down the fast track to nowhere good. Really? I couldn’t bring myself to see Schumer’s character as anything but a typical, basically successful adult–randier than the norm, perhaps, but not really flawed.

What exactly about this woman needs fixing? Deluged with beefy but uninteresting bedmates, she hops fitfully from partner to partner. Who wouldn’t? She can be particular about her pillow talk. Who isn’t? We learn at one point that she’s wont to suck down four drinks in an evening. That tally that would have had Marguerite Duras rolling her eyes.

Trainwreck (and Schumer’s persona in general) has been hailed as a transgressive, feminist send-up of a culture that reserves raunchy excess for men and stitches women into prim and proper social roles. I saw it instead as another blow against our already weakened tradition of bohemianism–what Simon Doonan perceives as a culture-wide crisis of charm. Like The Devil Wears Prada (a much worse offender), Schumer’s movie amounts to a long, conflicted apology for daring to live a cosmopolitan dream.

Is this a sexist issue? Well, everything is. But movies about bohemian men have been sending the same stern message: grow up, grow up, grow up, already! Which always seems to mean, in practice, getting a “responsible” job and getting married.

In the case of Trainwreck, Apatow is surely more to blame than Schumer, who if anything works to undercut the movie’s fussy traditionalism. But he’s not the only offender around. The old bourgeois moralism persists, and if it’s now less punitive than it used to be, it’s also more pervasive. On the subject of sex, it trots out a tired line: that wild men have to be tamed by women … but first, wild women have to tame themselves.

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