Monday, August 3, 2015

As Alfie Becomes Amy, Trainwreck Rumbles Along

What's it all about Alfie
Is it just for the moment we live
What's it all about
When you sort it out, Alfie
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?

Anybody remember Alfie?
You must remember the role that garnered Michael Caine an Academy Award nomination in the movie of the same name.
Caine starred as an unrepentant ladies' man -- a real cad. Alfie was a user and (until he sorted things out) a loser. The film was so popular that it was remade in 2004 with Jude Law as Alfie. But that did not do nearly as well as the original. No surprise there. Remakes never score as well. Just ask Hillary Clinton.
Anyway, so much for Alfie.
Now, along comes Amy, the new, updated, female version of Alfie. We're talking about Amy Schumer who plays a character (also named Amy) who's every bit as predatory and menacing as Alfie but who out Alfies Alfie by being incredibly raunchy as well. Amy is a man eater (both literally and figuratively) who's devoured so many men (sexually and otherwise) that's she's lost count. She's had young men, old men; muscled men, flabby men; short men, tall men and everything in between. There's no intimacy with Amy. It's all get 'em in, get 'em out, roll over, goodbye! Amy's also an alcoholic (sorta) and a pothead (sorta) In short, she's a trainwreck. 
And that's the title of the new box-office smash directed by Judd Apetow and written by Schumer herself - Trainwreck.
This movie is (sadly) a window into what's happened to the relationship between the sexes. Women have become foul-mouther, sex-crazed effing machines who get drunk (and/or get high) and joke with one another about their sexual conquests as they routinely objectify men. Blame it on Sex and the City, blame it on the women's movement, blame it on the pill. Whatever . . .  In response to this, men are dazed and confused and starving for romance, intimacy, and maybe even a wife, a home in the suburbs and two or three kids. The guys are dreaming of Anne Hathaway but somehow, they're always finding Melissa McCarthy. 
Yes, Trainwreck is a comedy. For endurance purposes alone, it would have to be.
And there are lots of clever and funny lines. And it's fast-paced, even if it is a bit too long. And the guys who play the men in Amy's life (most notably Bill Hader as the closest she gets to a main squeeze) are all first-rate. Hader is so aw-shucks responsible and thoroughly mid-American that he's like the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. Plus, Colin Quinn is appropriately dour as Amy's dad and John Sena emerges as a real movie star playing her more-than-meets-the-eye muscled hunk. And let's not forget LeBron James who plays himself and also does a great promo for Cleveland. On top of that, Amy's boss Dianna (played by Tilda Swinton) proves once again that Swinton can morph into almost any character you can imagine. Kudos as well to Mike Birbiglia as Amy's brother-in-law, Brie Larson as her "normal" sister and Evan Brinkman as her terminally precocious nephew, Allister. And then there are cameos featuring Daniel Radcliffe, Matthew Broderick, Chris Evert, Marv Albert and Amar'e Stoudemire, all playing themselves.
In short, Trainwreck is saved by a great cast, Apetow's snappy direction and Schumer's eye and ear for the zeitgeist as well as her fine acting. She not pretty in a traditional way. She not even particularly feminine in this role. She's elbows-up, raucous and in-your-face But, she's determined to make this movie work and she succeeds.
This is Alfie on steroids.
But then again, the times ain't exactly subtle, chaps.

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