The romantic comedy is something of an endangered species these days. It's hard to find good examples of it after say, the early 2000's when Bridget Jones's Diary and Love Actually came out, and then Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl seemed to take it upon themselves to murder the genre singlehandedly. Okay, so maybe that's unfair to those actresses, seeing as they didn't write the dreadful movies they starred in, but the actors themselves often become the face of this genre. People like Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts starred in some of the best remembered rom-coms of the 90's which came to symbolize that era, while the former two, unfortunately made many that were considered the reason it died (anyone remember Fool's Gold? No? Me neither).
A better example of a successful one from the mid-00's was Judd Apatow's Knocked Up (even if was a movie, much like all of his films, that more successfully showcased male bonding in the form of the bromance between Seth Rogen and his buddies) and the director is back to helm this new crack at it, which takes the screenplay of one Amy Schumer and stars the comedian turned actress herself as the heroine of what turns out to be an appealing, honest, heartfelt stab at personal confession and vulnerability that manages to tie itself up in the traditional romantic comedy bow with a happy, sweet ending. It may boast many of the conventions of the formula in a tried and true fashion (the better to introduce Schumer to the mainstream, which her niche sketch show on Comedy Central has never really been part of), but there's enough of an original character here that makes us feel and sympathize with Amy in a manner more befitting of female scripted comedies like Bridesmaids than the very guy centric movies Apatow has directed in the past.
Schumer gives us Amy, named after herself, as a thirtysomething woman who sleeps around, drinks a lot, and absolutely refuses to give anything like monogamy a chance, preferring to get it over and done with, hopping from bed to bed and out the door the second it's over, much like the old-fashioned stereotype of the "commitment-phobic guy" comedies like this are used to selling. The portrayal of Amy's open and casual attitude towards sex is refreshing, as it's from a woman's point of view in an extremely candid manner not often shown in mainstream movies, especially as it's deemed simply her everyday attitude and not demonized for being frisky. But the movie's a little more honest and probing under the surface, and even though Amy is seen as something of a functioning alcoholic who maintains a great job as a writer for a popular magazine, we eventually find out that both her drinking and her fear of long term relationships stem from lasting wounds imprinted on her psyche by her boozing and womanizing father (an aged up Colin Quinn), now in an assisted living facility and still taking his toll on his daughter's emotional maturity.
Amy eventually meets Aaron, the doctor for the New York Knicks whom she's assigned to write an article on, and sparks fly between them as they start dating and Amy learns how to slowly confront her fears of intimacy and of becoming her father. Aaron's played by Bill Hader in nice, understated, Jack Lemmon-everyguy kind of way, and the chemistry between the two is believable, as poor Aaron is far more reserved and conservative than Amy, but nonetheless really likes her and is willing to take on her issues as their relationship evolves. If I'm making this movie sound like a serious character study of a woman's psychology rather than the romantic comedy I described at first, have no fear- this film is peppered with jokes and comic relief supporting characters, as everyone from LeBron James, Ezra Miller, Tilda Swinton and Vanessa Bayer (MVP of the supporting cast) make appearances, but I'll be honest, I felt the authenticity of Amy laying her soul bare was what connected the most onscreen, and for me much of the humor fell flat (an intervention of Aaron with celebrity sports figures in the last third seems like a rejected SNL skit that jars with the movie's tone, while Swinton and James's characters simply weren't as funny as I think they were meant to be).
But humor is always subjective, and if I connected more with Amy's honesty it's because to me it was refreshing to see that kind of exploration of a person's stunted emotional growth, and Amy's relationships with her father, her married sister (Brie Larsen) and their effects on her state of mind regarding her romance with Aaron made sense and explained, rather than judged, the kind of person that she had turned out to be. The movie ends with one of those spectacular romantic gestures that so many romantic comedies love to embrace (on par with the applause in a public place, last minute greeting at the airport, etc.) and the sweetness of Aaron and Amy's try at happiness was so heartfelt and earned that I felt genuinely moved, in spite of not having actually laughed at that many of the jokes in the film (even John Cena's brief role as Amy's sometime boyfriend in the beginning seemed to have more impact as yet another symptom of the heartbreak in Amy's life instead of the laughs a WWE wrestler's cameo is supposed to bring- although he does get a couple of chuckles out of one of the many stark sex scenes).
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