Check Yourself Before You Trainwreck Yourself

Trainwreck

I loved Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck. It was painfully funny, genuinely moving, and featured an almost unrecognisable Tilda Swinton. There is so much to love and yet… and yet… Before I went to see Trainwreck someone mentioned that perhaps the film had a surprising number of jokes about race and sexuality for a romantic comedy about a straight white couple.

Just like that the seed was planted.

I have a confession to make. I am privileged. I took the quiz on CheckMyPrivilege.com and scored 170 earning myself the title of “Shitlord”. I am a white able-bodied heterosexual cis-male atheist who was born in a prosperous Western country and as time goes by I learn more and more how lucky that makes me. This means that I do often having to stop and think about aspects of media that would otherwise pass me by. The main result of this has been an exploration of feminism and learning to understand all sorts of new phrases like “patriarchy”, “the male gaze”, and “victim blaming”. It makes certain types of film a lot harder to enjoy but ultimately is a good thing.

Trainwreck is arguably a huge feminist success story. In the lead role is a woman who enjoys sex, has a decent job, and talks to other women about subjects other than men. Good stuff. We have a winner. Let’s move along now. Oh crap there’s still racism and homophobia to deal with.

Trainwreck 2

With my mind tainted by the idea that Trainwreck might not be completely kosher I couldn’t watch the film without each joke about race or sexuality sticking out. I kept a tally and reached a count of 16 jokes in total that boiled down to either “Ha! You’re gay!” or “Ha! You’re black!”. As I said before this is made all the more jarring considering the film was about a white woman falling in love with a white man. That’s not to say the cast is entirely white; Schumer’s love interest, played by Bill Hader, has a best friend who just happens to be black (and LeBron James) but the race jokes still find their way in.

Just to be clear I am not saying Trainwreck is ground zero for all racist and homophobic comedy. I’m not even saying that Trainwreck is either homophobic or racist. What am I saying then? I guess I am asking questions; I am wondering whether a comedy can exist that not only shows feminist qualities but does so without turning race or sexuality into cheap jokes. Does comedy need a target to be funny? Can you have a joke without someone being the butt? Amy Schumer is an excellent comedian and writer and has created a film bursting at the seams with jokes that will make you weep. Could it have done without those 16 jokes? I’d say so. Am I being over-sensitive? Perhaps.

Go and see Trainwreck and judge for yourself. It really is a magnificent comedy.

Paul – Review

Last November we were lucky enough to see an early cut of the new film Paul. We reviewed the film but within a day had received two take-down requests so did the decent thing and took the review down. At the time we were promised invites to a press screening of the film so that we could review it properly but as that has failed to materialise we’re going to republish our review. Bear in mind that we saw the unfinished film and all manner of things may have changed in the meantime.

Pegg and Frost play two friends who follow up a visit to Comic Con with a trip around America’s alien hotspots. Along the way they meet Paul, a foul-mouthed and brilliantly rendered alien voiced by Seth Rogan, who is on the run from the government. Along the way they pick up Kristin Wiig in the form of a crazy Christian and end up persued by her even crazier father. They are also chased by some rednecks with almost no consequence, it’s that kind of film.

On the whole Paul is great, very funny and lighthearted, and while the humour is normally broad and often relies on alien Paul saying or doing something rude never really resorts to pure toilet humour. In fact Seth Rogan as Paul was surprisingly funny and restrained.

The film felt like a more old fashioned comedy with the leads gradually gathering various people chasing them, a bit of romance between Wiig and Pegg, and of course the now standard bromance between Frost and Pegg.

The film’s main weaknesses lay in two of the characters who appear only briefly. Sigourney Weaver’s role was presented as a big reveal despite her having very little to do and featuring heavily in the production blogs. She did get one of the biggest laughs in the film though so who am I to complain?

Blythe Danner’s character was another that was all pay-off and no set up. The emotional resonance of the climax of her storyline fell a bit flat when we were only told her back-story in a quick bit of exposition rather than shown it properly.

Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio and Jason Bateman were all great as secret agents, and Jane Lynch’s small role as the waitress at a UFO themed cafe was a real highlight.

Paul does suffer from the lack of Edgar Wright, and is nothing compared to the Cornetto Trilogy, but a few unnecessary parts aside is a lot of harmless fun and Greg Mottola does a good job at directing. I’m willing to look past the bizarre bit of Christianity bashing that could genuinely offend some.

After the film we were asked to filled out a survey and I selected “Would definitely recommend” so do go and see Paul when it is released on 14th February 2011.

10 points if you spott Scott Pilgrim.