MPAA Rating, R
USCCB Rating, O
Reel Rating, (3 out of 5)
The heroine of Trainwreck, Amy (played by Amy Schumer), spends her days writing for a pulpy men’s magazine and her nights burning through alcohol, weed, and one-night stands. Despite its rough start, the film ultimately affirms the necessity of healthy relationships that involve trust, conflict resolution, and even sacrificial love. Yet watching Amy make this transition so graphically is exhausting. Only the most thick-skinned individuals will still cheer her on the by the end, but we should. A step forward is still a step forward, however wobbly.
Many of Amy’s problems are the direct result of poor parenting. In a gut-wrenching flashback, Amy’s father explains that he is divorcing her mom because “monogamy is not realistic,” comparing it to playing with only one doll your whole life, forgetting that people are not objects to be played with and then discarded. Amy takes his advice to heart, and as an adult moves from guy to guy with an acceleration Hugh Hefner would envy. Meanwhile, her sister Kim ignores her father’s callousness, settles down, and soon is pregnant with her second child. “Wow,” Amy exclaims. “One more and you’ll have to move to Utah.” When Amy meets Dr. Aaron Conner (Bill Hader), she immediately seduces him, expecting yet another short-term romance. She keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop so she can bolt, but to her horror discovers he’s actually a nice guy. Worse still, she finds herself falling in love with him, too. When they have a fight, she’s convinced it’s over, but even then he wants to “work things out.” What’s with this guy?
Trainwreck is the latest in a series of Judd Apatow-produced projects, including the film Bridesmaids and the TV show Girls, that seeks to prove that girls can be just as raunchy as guys. Sometimes, this can be a refreshing reminder that women have just as many physical realities as men, but it also suggests that women are empowered by imitating stereotypically male behavior, particularly sinful male behavior.
Unsurprisingly, this behavior does not lead to the liberation and peace Amy seeks. For all Kim’s “boringness,” she has people she can depend on and a legacy that will continue for generations. The impetus for Amy’s redemption is her father’s death. She thinks he was a great guy because, although he made many horrible decisions, he was fun to be around. Yet minutes after the memorial service, everyone seems to be done with him, and Amy doesn’t want that. She learns from Aaron that in any relationship there must be sacrifice and that problems don’t need to be the end.
The real reasons to see any Apatow movie is the witty dialogue, sly acting, and fun celebrity cameos. Trainwreck has all this in droves, and Amy Schumer is just as talented a comedy writer as Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, or Tina Fey. What is endlessly frustrating is that a Catholic has to go see such a vulgar film in order to get great comedic storytelling. One must go back almost to the 1950s to find great comedies that don’t offend the senses.
In the aftermath of Obergefell v. Hodges, I’ve seen a range of emotions from rage to disgust to fear, but after seeing Trainwreck I’ve found a new one that has proven helpful: pity. Like Obergefell, Amy is just another product of society “looking for love in all the wrong places” and doing self-destructive things because she thinks they will make her happy. The reaction of many Catholics to the wider culture has been to circle the wagons, but Christ calls us to seek healing for those who hurt us, to engage the culture, and to face the opposition with courage. This does not mean being as “dirty” as Amy Schumer, but it does mean that sometimes one must look honestly at the dirt. There’s hope for Amy. There’s hope for all of us.
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