Amy Schumer & Trainwreck – what filmmakers, critics, and my husband might miss

Trainwreck, Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer and Vanessa Bayer in Trainwreck

I only review movies I like. For example, anything Amy Schumer does. Like, Trainwreck for example 🙂

It’s on principal that I only write about movies I like because dissing someone’s life work is meaningless cruelty that doesn’t serve the public. So critics, stop doing that. Insist on changing the title of your otherwise significant work by calling yourself “Film Appreciators” rather than film critics.

But I digress. Back to Amy Schumer.

I’m gonna start with a random list of what I liked and then I’ll explain what I really liked, that I’d want screenwriters, all movie makers, critics, also my husband, dad, brother, gay guys, all male allies, to consider. Thanks in advance for doing that.

Laundry list of what I like about Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck

I like that it’s uncool

I went to see Trainwreck really wanting to like it and being pretty sure that I wouldn’t. I expected all raunch and no heart, edgy for the sake of edgy kind of thing. I was pleasantly surprised that it was much more heartfelt than what I had expected.

I did also like the fact that the character does ultimately redeem herself, as befits both the genre and common sense. But the redemption is not some cloying and totally not believable kind of thing. It was well done.

The film doesn’t glorify alcohol

Speaking of uncool, I also like that it’s not yet another lesson about how women who are rampant and sexually available at all times is our road to liberation. It doesn’t do any of that, which was my worry going in. So thank you Amy Schumer for being smart.

A break from male domination

Yeah, I’ll say it, I liked seeing a studio film on a big screen that’s written from a female perspective.

What exactly is a “female perspective” you ask? Each one of us is unique, and that’s true. But it’s also true that I rarely ever get to see a movie where in every single scene, we see things from the perspective of the woman on screen.

Other than the male co-lead, the male characters are mostly in the background, and we are immersed in the lives, thoughts, feelings and insanity of the female characters in almost every scene – with each woman being distinct.

Maybe some day this won’t characterize .1% of the movies that get made, but at this point in time – that’s a novelty. I appreciated it. Hugely.

A female lead who’s not skinny. Yes please!

Seeing a female lead in a rom com (or in any movie) who’s not skinny is mind blowing. Yeah, mind blowing.

That’s not a small little petty perk. It would change lives – it would save lives – if women in movies looked like us and like the women we know.

So suck it trillion-dollars-in-profits-uglification-industries. This movie was a relief. (I can now exhale a sigh of relief and let the belly out.)

Performances were yummi

Amy Schumer is super, as is every other cast member. Tilda Swinton is amazeballs. Vanessa Bayer can do no wrong. Even the “boring and pretty woman who’s totally square” was handled with subtext and humanity.

What I liked MOST about Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck – was seeing a girl not be nice.

Here’s the part that critics missed, and what anyone would miss if they’re not themselves a woman writing movies:

A female lead who’s not nice is crazy unheard of on the screen.

Big deal, you say? I challenge you to find these for me. (If you do, please let me know about it in the comments below. Thanks!)

You might find the “kooky party girl” movie where she’s screwed up and not all peaches and cream. And you have the “not nice” supporting characters: the gossip head, the nagging mother, the bitchy whatever. Not the lead. The lead is nice.

A female lead who’s not nice, in our society, where sexism is so much the air we breathe that we can’t even notice it – that’s a rare, rare find. Most audiences won’t notice that this is novel – and important.

When I was a young and naive writer, I wrote a several scripts with a female lead who wasn’t nice. The input from industry peeps was consistent: “We can’t sell this because the main character isn’t likeable“.

I then noticed my students receiving the same feedback. If the female lead wasn’t a nice person, the script would hit a wall.

Meanwhile the boys got to be: the Blues Brothers (where standing a woman up at the alter is funny), The Wedding Crashers (enough said), The Usual Suspects (main character shoots his own family), Homer Simpson, Family Guy, every character played by Jack Nicholson, the all-hail Godfather, Scarface, Tony Soprano, and umm, several hundred thousand films and shows where the male lead is a jerk but we love him anyway. Breaking Bad! I loved Breaking Bad.

I love those films and shows (some of them, that is), but I hate it that when it comes to female leads, permission to be an asshole is denied.

She can be gritty, witty, sexy, edgy, foul-mouthed, deeply flawed, or totally kooky and incompetent in that funny and self-deprecating sort of way (Veep, Parks & Rec), but if she isn’t nice – that’s a deal breaker.

So thank you Amy Schumer for playing a dick. I loved that.

I can see some people not liking this film, or feeling neutral and unmoved by it, and I can see some people totally eating it up. It’s definitely a “white culture is the dominant culture” kind of film, so we gotta get smarter on that front.

All in all, I’d say it was smart and genuine writing, I love that Amy named the main character Amy, it was beautifully performed, and it’s a good example of a how tight, well-crafted, and totally conventionally structured rom-com can be fresh, creative and authentic.

Thumbs up.

SEEN ANY FILMS OR SHOWS WITH A FEMALE LEAD WHO’S NOT A NICE PERSON? COMMENT BELOW.

As long as we can agree that the one or two examples you can find are the exception, not the rule – then I wanna hear about it and will probably watch it!

If you’re looking for guidance and support as a writer and filmmaker, and you’d be excited to learn from a diehard feminist, or any ol’ feminist, or just someone who gets excited about seeing women portrayed as human beings, then you are SO in the right place! Click below for my free trainings. 

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey
Margot Robbie in Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey

Update on this article: 

Harley Quinn got a her own movie eventually in Birds of Prey, and I did enjoy her lack of niceness, but even she eventually comes around to reveal her heart of gold. Can you imagine the Godfather coming around the reveal his heart of gold? Barf.

Also: Harley Quinn is “novel” because she’s not nice, and all female leads must be nice!

I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer in I Feel Pretty

Another update: I’ve also seen Amy Schumer’s “I feel Pretty” and I loved that too!

Confessions of a feminist: I was totally not gonna watch that film because the critics were hating on it and it got so few IMDB stars and all that. Who has time for a bad film?

OMG, I’m so glad I ended up watching it. Loved I Feel Pretty. Loved Amy Schumer even more. Evidently movies that are flat out about the experiences of women, as told by women, don’t make critics happy. (I’m telling you guys, and most of you are guys, change your job title!)

According to a report published by The Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, there are two male critics for every female critic. That the disparity widens as you go up the chain of how widely read a publication is.

Just sayin’…

Do leave a comment below if you have films or shows to recommend with a female lead who’s not peaches & cream. Thanks!

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