Hetero-normativity: The Motion Picture
Judd Apatow
Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, John Cena, LeBron James, Brie Larson
The Setup: 
Hard partying woman finds value in settling down.

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.

Should you watch it: 

If you love TV sitcoms about marriage and family.


I laughed out loud at your line about muscle bears spending endless hours taking pictures with their arms around each other, because to the extent that this movie says anything to the gay community (and I don't really think it means to) it is preaching to a group that is at large already lock-step invested in conformity.

I thought the movie was just a familiar retread to women that after your 20's, you should give up anything edgy or interesting about yourself and became a bland married suburbanite who has children and nice things. Anything else would be sad and pathological. If it starred a Jennifer Aniston like starlet, the entire thing would be beyond notice.

But coming from Amy Schumer? From some interviews it sounds like the move to a feature film was a little daunting and she let it get taken out of her hands. To the extent that is is autobiographical, the place she says she was really coming from was much darker and more nihilistic. But I suspect that was flattened into "mild mess with daddy issues and closeted boyfriend... gets a second chance" by the studio.

I debated whether to include the musclebears line, because it is a completely gratuitous pot-shot, but then I thought... fuck it!

I don't think the movie says ANYTHING to gays, which is part of what makes it so straight and heteronormative: gays barely exist in this movie's world. At one point someone doesn't know how to think of gays and Amy says "As people?" but it comes off as just a tiny gesture and my reaction was THANKS FOR THROWING US A FUCKING BONE!

Agreed that the movie seems somehow defanged, and is boring, smug and defending the status quo in a way that says JUDD APATOW. I refrained from laying blame on him in the review, and referencing his obsession with the Bill Cosby case, because it opens a huge can of worms... but what strikes me in his reaction to the Cosby case is that he is SO SURE HE IS RIGHT that he's lost all perspective and won't listen to others. Here, the way bland suburban lives [but upper middle class, PLEASE!] and children are presented as INHERENTLY superior, sleeping around is INHERENTLY bad--and then the cavalcade of "look at all my cool sports friends!"--just reeks of Apatow smugness. We'll never know what happened, but yeah, I would have appreciated some harder edges and fewer celebrity cameos.

Apatow's movies always overstay their welcome by 30 minutes. He really needs to hire someone with a cattle prod to stand behind him when the film is being edited, and shock him with it and yell, "No Judd! Bad Judd! This movie does not need to be 2 1/2 hours long! Keep making more cuts!"

This reminds me a lot of Anna Faris' "What's Your Number?", where she plays a young woman who is simply appalled at herself that she's already had almost 20 lovers in her short life, and decides not to have any more sex until she's found the ideal man to marry and settle down with as a Stepford wife. It's painful to see a charismatic comedienne like Faris doing this. In any case, during the first ten minutes or so of the movie you're not even remotely worried with how many boyfriend's this adult woman living in a free society has chosen to have, because you're far too busy being profoundly concerned with her serious alcohol addiction. She's the kind of person for whom alcohol works as rohypnol, meaning she wakes up next to men without remembering how that happened. That she drinks to forget, and then to remember, then goes on the internet looking for potential husband material candidates and passes out from the booze in front of the screen, and then goes to a party where she ends up drunk as usual dancing on the tables, etc. After this serious issue is clearly established as her real problem that she won't acknowledge, just as quickly and without explanation it's dropped and you never see her have another drink again. I guess all she need was to make up her mind to stop screwing around and find herself a husband? Being a drunk and a whore goes hand in hand? Also alcoholism and self-inflicted date-rape is a comic relief, idk.

"Painful" is the apt desription for poor, hapless Anna Faris' whole career, isn't it? I've loved her since the first Scary Movie, in which she far outclassed everything around her, and even watched a few awful movies just because they starred or featured her, but she could never seem to find anything that matched her talent and charisma. It's sad, and I hope something cmes together for her, but at least she scored Chris Pratt as a husband [and he scored her...].

Thanks for the note about What's Your Number, but based on your description, I think I'll continue to skip it!

I'm so glad I found this review, I watched this movie a few days ago (I, too, am really into the show and have watched every season obsessively) and I couldn't believe how bad it was. I'm with you Scott, I legit hated this movie and everything about it. I get that she was trying to subvert gender stereotypes by treating men in this movie the way men treat women... but in the end, all that means is that we're stuck for 2 hours with an asshole who treats everyone like garbage, and then is rewarded with a good looking, charming, established guy who just happens to have ZERO backbone. Ugh, this movie. Tsk tsk Amy.