I love Amy Schumer! I’m a bit obsessive with watching clips from her show on YouTube, since I don’t have cable, and I can get very addicted and end up watching a few in a row. And I love that she’s making really intelligent, very biting satire that addresses a lot of sexual and social issues relating to the way men treat women, and how women treat each other [although I do start to wonder if the show will ever admit that there might be maybe ONE decent man in existence]. So I was curiously dismayed when… after getting over a seriously hateful mistake the film makes… I was finding myself not warming up to it. And growing more remote as it went through its inadvisably long running time, until I finally realized: You know what? I HATE this film. We’ll speculate on the reasons as we continue.
We open their father talking to Amy and her sister Kim, telling them that he and their mother are divorcing, and making them repeat “Monogamy isn’t realistic.” Then we have Amy around 30 or so, living in Manhattan, and hooking up with lots of guys. She feels happy, and she has a rule to remain unattached: “Never let them sleep over.” She works at men’s magazine S’Nuff, where a hilarious Tilda Swinton does a mean turn as a callous New York magazine boss. The staff pitches story ideas such as “You’re not gay—your girlfriend is boring,” “You call those tits?” and a “Where are they now?” story about the kids Michael Jackson made payments to. She is assigned to write a story about a popular sports doctor because—wait for it—she HATES sports! Can you BELIEVE it!??!?! Kooky!
Meanwhile, she is dating John Cena, who doesn’t know that she sleeps around. There is a sex scene [bodybuilder fans will get numerous shots of a nearly-nude Cena in a sexual situation] in which she tries to get him to talk dirty but he can’t, until he finally says that from behind, she looks like a boy, at which point he cums loudly. This is the first of several jokes in which it seems that he is secretly gay, because although we can’t make fun of gay people, we CAN make fun of closeted guys. Maybe he should grow a beard and hang with the musclebears, so they can spend endless hours taking pictures with their arms around each other?
In here she meets Bill Hader as Aaron for the first time, and they find a rapport. Then she has another date with Cena, and here comes the seriously hateful mistake: This movie shows Amy talking loudly and using her cellphone in a movie, and being completely unrepentant when someone shushes her… and then the movie shows no follow-up or consequences, tacitly approving her behavior! I was kind of shocked… why would any FILM defend, or show as even somewhat “okay,” talking and using a smartphone during a FILM!?!?!? These two are, to me, decapitable offenses, and it really makes you HATE Amy’s character [especially as our feminist protagonist turns away from the criticism with a smug smirk and lets her boyfriend handle the consequences of her actions], but also hate the FILM [i.e. the director] for allowing this. The whole thing is in service of more "fun" that Cena might be gay, but guys, bad, BAD miscalculation.
Anyway, after the film [an imbecilic, completely unfunny parody indie film], Cena finds out that she’s currently sleeping with a number of other guys and dumps her. In here, she has another date in which she really hits it off with Aaron, and sleeps over, which is very funny as she issues several demands about how he not breathe in a way that she can feel on her body. She’s also going to see her sister, who has a big bourgeois suburban house, sweater-wearing husband and generic adorable moppet. There are several such scenes in the film, and in all of them Amy lobs some softball jabs about how their lives are “boring,” but receives only non-specifics about how it’s all actually “great.” Having kids is “great,” having a sweater-husband is “great,” having a big bourgie house in the suburbs is “great,” being married is “great.” It never really gets more in-depth than that, the implication being: it doesn’t have to! Such truths are self-evident. While I take some time to ponder if this is all really hetero-normative now that gays can adopt kids and get married, I will venture to state that there may be some wiggle room between being a person avoiding intimacy by having a lot of hook-ups and full giving one’s existence fully over to the Crate & Barrel Hive Mind.
It goes forward in precisely the way you would expect, the formula fully in place and enforced. There is some tragedy, and Schumer doesn’t embarrass herself when she has to cry and be serious. She and Aaron break up, thoughts are thunk, and then she arranges a big splashy production number to get him back, which I guess is what people have to resort to when they are unable to communicate in words. I guess it also wouldn’t be “exciting” enough if they just had a good talk and got back together. Then they live happily ever after.
So I thought about it overnight, and the right for gays to marry and adopt is too new, and this insistence that marriage and family [and being upper middle class!] CAN still be really hetero-normative. That means conveying that being like heteros is REALLY the morally correct, normal, right way to be. What really conveys this—aside from the overall arc that Amy has to “mature” and give up on sleeping around and not committing to one person—but mostly the scenes in which she looks at her sister’s son, and suburban McMansion, and husband—and decides she wants that, without the film ever articulating WHY. It is just presented as INTRINSICALLY superior, and all the film has to do is throw that tacky-ass Crate & Barrel showplace in front of us, as well as trotting the Adorable Moppet(TM) and sweater-rockin’ husband before our eyes and OF COURSE any rational adult will see that this is what’s true and right and good and pure. The other thing the movie doesn’t do is really convey WHY Amy sleeping around is really so bad. Sure, SHE, this individual character, doesn’t really manage it all that well, but it fails to make the case that it is intrinsically troubled, or that someone else couldn’t manage it. So, the whole film is really smug and judgy, and guys, why don’t you take your tired old moralism and fuck off?
So, if you’re gay, it’s really hetero-normative. If you’re straight, it’s just really fucking SQUARE.
What else? I did indeed laugh hard a few times. But the whole thing is way too long at two hours, which leads to a lot of scenes that feel padded and unnecessary, and robs the film of the pep and snap it could have had. But as it goes on we have scenes that play as so contrived they just become tedious… like the therapy scene narrated by a sports announcer, and the numerous wedged-in sorts star cameos… and the whole thing just starts getting more and more vague and comforty, like when Aaron tells Amy that sports are good because they “bring people together” and cheerleaders aren’t sexist because they “bring people together.” Well you know, a terrorist attack or movie theater shooting also brings people together, you know? The whole thing is just so middle-of-the-road and so worried about protecting the status quo, and so, so deeply square. Amy, we expected more.
If you want to see essentially the same movie, but one that isn’t afraid to really go there and leave its main character and everyone else in shreds from the harshness of its spot-on criticism, you should watch the excellent Young Adult. If you want an extended network TV sitcom with a few raunchy jokes added, you should watch this. Young Adult failed at the box office, while this is a bonafide hit. That’s the world we live in.
If you love TV sitcoms about marriage and family.