Friday, January 22, 2016

Doris and Rock Avoid a Trainwreck

I admit I’m not the target demographic, but I just finished watching Trainwreck, the Golden Globe nominee starring and written by today’s comic it-girl, Amy Schumer. As advertised, it’s very raunchy and very funny—not your mother’s romantic comedy, and possibly not yours either, if you’re of the AARP generation.

Amy plays (a character named) Amy, a semi-successful journalist on the staff of a New York-based men’s magazine tellingly called S’Nuff. Having early in life absorbed her father’s mantra that “monogamy isn’t realistic,” she has no use for romantic commitment. But she likes (or rather loves) all the basics: booze, dope, and sex with a series of muscle-bound pretty boys. (Since turnabout is fair play, I really liked the fact that in the film’s many bedroom scenes, Amy remains modestly covered up, while it’s the menfolk whose bare essentials are frequently on view.) What happens when a girl like Amy meets a genuinely nice guy (Bill Hader), who’s also both smart and totally smitten? He can’t match Amy in terms of sexual experience, and she can easily drink him under the table, but there’s the possibility that these two can become one. Since the film is directed by Judd Apatow, who likes to balance raunch with sweetness, the outcome is never truly in doubt. But the journey is a lively one, and a good way to spend a Saturday evening not already occupied with booze, dope, and sex.

Yes, I had fun. But, old-fashioned gal that I am, I couldn’t help remembering back to what romantic comedies meant when I was growing up and learning the rules of engagement between the sexes. Like everyone else, I got a lot of my education in these matters from what I saw on the movie screen. And I certainly don’t recall a heroine of the Amy Schumer ilk. 

What I do remember is Doris Day (and, in Sex and the Single Girl, Natalie Wood in full Doris Day mode). Doris (or Natalie) is a smart and sassy working gal. Maybe she is a writer, or a psychologist, or an ad exec. She is fully capable of feeling sexual attraction to a hunky guy of the Rock Hudson ilk. He’s known as a lady-killer, and she comes very close to succumbing to his charms, but is saved by a combination of luck, fate, and her own scruples. (In Sex and the Single Girl, in which Wood plays a virginal version of Helen Gurley Brown, the stud is Tony Curtis. Wood’s character, a psychologist who has written a bestseller about women in the bedroom, talks a good game about modern sexuality, but it’s quite clear her only knowledge of the experience is academic. ) The plot of a movie like Lover Come Back or Pillow Talk or Sex and the Single Girl or The Tender Trap (Debbie Reynolds and Frank Sinatra) always shows how the playboy-type male gets maneuvered into holy matrimony when he surprises himself by falling for the good girl. Even though he might have gotten into her good graces in the first place by way of deception, it’s made clear at the ending that he’s ready to change his ways and wholeheartedly embrace monogamy.

Monogamy—the very thing that Amy’s father railed against. But, at the same time, the thing that we’re hoping for at the end of Trainwreck, once Amy has learned to love herself and unleash her inner cheerleader. (Long story.) Adding to the mix are Tilda Swinton, Daniel Radcliffe, and a whole lot of name athletes. Who knew LeBron James—in the black BFF role—could be so funny? 

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