Getting Intimate with Trainwreck

Trainwreck and this movie review are not safe for work due to references to sex scenes.
If you aren’t old enough to see this movie your parents probably don’t want you reading this either.

Freeze frame from the Universal Pictures movie trailer on Youtube.

As an Amy Schumer fan I was primed to love this film and love it I did. I snort-laughed with the best of them during the John Cena dirty talk scene. I cried during Amy’s tailspin, pushing away her family and boyfriend. The premise of the movie is that her father struggled with monogamy, said it was unrealistic, and so Amy has been casually hooking up with multiple men instead of trying to form a monogamous long-term partnership.

My only gripe with the film: it conflates monogamy with intimacy.

Someone could watch the film and think that Amy goes from a Trainwreck casually hooking up with multiple dudes to a monogamous relationship. That person might think “Obviously the moral of the story is that she needed monogamy and all that casual hooking up was hurting her.” I would encourage that person to watch the movie again (and sure, I’ll go with you, I love the film).

I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with adults casually hooking up with other folks. I encourage people to be safe when having sex, and that’s harder to do with people you don’t know well, but there is nothing morally wrong with two consenting adults having sex. Amy does have a boyfriend (played by the apparently hilarious John Cena) that she misleads and cheats on; their break up scene involves her saying that they never talked about being exclusive even though it’s very apparent that most people do assume that after a few dates. [Although I encourage folks to be very explicit with each other about their expectations regarding exclusivity and what that actually means but that is for another post.] She’s not in the right there, she clearly hurt her boyfriend by deceiving him by omission. Having one partner at a time is usually the accepted norm, especially for women.*

This really does appear in the movie. Some movie reviewer described this as “dead air.” Most of the theater I was in laughed heartily during these scenes. Credit to Universal Pictures.

The deception of her boyfriend is the most overt demonstration of Amy’s “mask.” Most of Amy’s actions in the first part of the film are to maintain her artifice. The problem in the film isn’t that Amy isn’t close with one sexual partner, the problem is that she’s not close with anyone, not her family, no one at work, obviously none of her hook ups.  She’s too high, too drunk, too guarded to connect with someone beyond physical sex or superficial interaction.

There is a montage dedicated to her sexual escapades, which are all clearly casual. She has some interaction with her sister, though their relationship is strained. Her sister chose the traditional path of happy domesticated wife with a great husband and stepson, while Amy chose to quickly end relationships before they even begin to avoid getting close to anyone. She fights with her sister over how to care for their father. They disagree on almost everything and it seems clear that Amy does not really confide in her sister, since she views her as so much different.

Some might claim that she’s close with her father. It’s clear that Amy’s character loves her father, she visits him dutifully at his care home. But they don’t have an emotionally close relationship, she does not share her vulnerabilities with him. When Amy does try to open up to him by talking about Aaron, he shoots down her attempt at getting close to someone by reciting a list of previous failed relationships, as if to say what her actions have telegraphed this entire time “It will fail anyway so why bother trying?”

Just look at that awkward cuddle face. Credit to Universal Pictures.

She’s obviously initially resistant to being vulnerable with Aaron. The post-cuddle “Oh God what have I done” face says it all. During her tailspin they fight and she actively pushes him away, just as she pushed her sister away after the funeral. He tries to encourage communication, they stay up too late. He’s unable to perform in surgery and they take a break. She had started opening up to Aaron, so she retreats back to her walled up self, (almost) hooking up with someone at work who is apparently a minor and then getting fired from her job (understandably).

Here’s the big reveal. Amy’s come back is NOT just about her romance.

The girl gets the guy after her big romantic gesture. Credit to Universal Pictures.

Sure, there’s a huge romantic gesture that’s equal parts adorable and hilarious. And someone could view her giving up marijuana and alcohol (generously donated to a homeless man who reappears throughout the film) as her giving up her “rock and roll” lifestyle. I view it as her committing to living more genuinely. She’s giving up her artifice, she’s taking off the mask. And that means being sober. It means opening up to your family, being vulnerable with them, and apologizing for your terrible behavior. It means really trying in your relationship with your SO. I’ve read some reviews out there that felt Amy’s story about her father and family was ham-fisted. I think those people expected a romance comedy; what they got was a comedy about a woman figuring out that it’s healthier to open up rather than push away. It was so satisfying to watch Amy reach out to her sister and sister’s family to repair their relationship as well as watch her get the guy with her botched cheerleader routine.

Remember those folks who thought the movie’s message was “don’t sleep around and you’ll be happy?” Let’s recap “the message” of the film: 1) Amy decides to excel at her job and gets published in a widely read magazine, 2) She makes amends with her family and opens up to them, 3) She stops using a haze of marijuana smoke and binge drinking to avoid being genuine with others and 4) She decides to be vulnerable and honest with her boyfriend instead of fake or deceptive. That’s a pretty nuanced feel good message for what most people thought would be a “only just” a raunchy rom com movie. So while it’s initially framed as “monogamy is unrealistic,” the movie is actually about a woman choosing to live more authentically and trying to have healthier relationships.