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Amy Schumer in Trainwreck

Amy Schumer in Trainwreck

…and the lack of female lead roles.

Rising way above early estimates, the new adult comedy Trainwreck is an instant box office smash stateside that is set to light up local cinemas the same controversial way.

Headlined by multiple Emmy award nominated funny lady Amy Schumer from her own hit television sketch show on the Comedy Channel, Inside Amy Schumer, Trainwreck is not your average chick-flick.

Co-written as an apparent thinly veiled portrait of herself Schumer plays Amy, the carefree writer for a trashy magazine who takes the party animal persona to the extreme by consuming an abundance of booze and pot usually resulting in awkward or wild sexual escapades before the inevitable walk of shame.

All this is set to change upon assignment to profile a presentable, balanced sports doctor played by often outrageous himself, Bill Hader (Superbad) who unknowingly steers Amy boldly where she has rarely gone before, into reality and true romance.

A massive hit with critics and audiences alike, this is sure to send Amy Schumer into the Hollywood stratosphere which a unique talent such as she possesses, Trainwreck is also significant due to a female in the lead of a mainstream movie. This is a rarity in a time where gender equality and women in film is an ongoing roaring subject that many stern crusty old male Hollywood suits choose to ignore more often than not.

It would be too easy to focus on greats Steel Magnolias, Little Women, Beaches – all top picks for girls nights. Meg Ryan has her very own canon of girly flicks but most have a male counterpart with an equally highlighted role. Made to standard for a few laughs then a cry, it’s obvious a movie with a standout singular or multiple females in a lead role is unfortunately frowned upon by the studios, all of which have boardrooms full of decision making men.

Earlier this year, Patricia Arquette won her Supporting actress Academy Award ironically for Boyhood. Taking the stage for what is generally a tearful endless run of a thank you list, she spoke of equal rights in Hollywood for females that still receive backlash regarding her poignant views from certain factions. During the speech, cheers and a ‘few’ groans could be heard however, many A-list colleagues such as Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep have since championed the stance. Movies for girls are proven hits, Clueless just turned 20 and is watched by evolving generations of teen girls. Statistics show admissions are 75% on average females.

Social media and fans went ballistic as soon as the reincarnation of Ghostbusters was announced with four girls donning the grey jumpsuits and power packs. Original Ghostbuster Dan Ackroyd had been attempting to get a third installment of his beloved creation into production for two decades without success. However Sony Pictures said, Who you gonna call; Paul Feig of course. A proven director of The Heat and Spy, successfully combining action comedy with ladies at the forefront. Bring it on and in a further role reversal, Australian Chris Hemsworth has been cast playing their secretary.

Hundreds of films are released into cinemas yearly, not to mention a larger amount that go straight to DVD or in modern viewing times, appear directly on movie streaming services such as Netflix.  Out of these films, a miniscule amount have a female actor as the sole lead, or headlined above the title. In recent times, exceptions are Gravity, Bridesmaids, Spy, Blue Jasmine and The Help.

Magic Mike XXL, now in cinemas, showcased male entertainers as they like to call themselves, against all odds the biggest response and loudest laugh arguably came from a scene involving the wonderful non blasé expressions by a silent Lindsey Moser as the Mini-Mart Girl.

Turning back the clock, you may be surprised at how many ‘classics’ were all about girl power or pushed the boundaries of stern female characters going beyond the powder puff rom-com. Thelma & Louise (1991) is an unforgettable journey of two girls standing up for themselves on the open road ultimately leading to their demise. The original ending was more conventional.

Diane Keaton may have been dressed in mens attire as Annie Hall but few expected it to win Best Picture Oscar over the very manly Rocky. Cinematic genius director Woody Allen in fact has a penchant for creating strong roles for women, among dozens of screen muses Scarlett Johansson, Dianne Weist, Mia Farrow also the aforementioned Keaton and our own Cate Blanchett have all had award nominations or wins for their parts. Hannah and Her Sisters celebrates women in no uncertain terms. At a film a year, it is rare he does not use a prominent female protagonist.

Due to their degradation, Showgirls and Striptease did nothing for the treatment of women in Hollywood although both have become camp favourites for all the wrong reasons. Demi Moore brushed off the sleaze and ridicule of the latter a year later kicking ass in GI Jane.

Action adventure is where Sigourney Weaver led the way against the mother of all Aliens, literally, on the opposite scale. Weaver was a one woman show in Gorillas in the Mist based on the research of Dian Fossey.

European films are much more likely to include women players above the credits, three amazing greats Betty Blue (France) Run Lola Run (Germany) Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Spain).

During the greatest decade of all (my opinion), flame haired Molly Ringwald could sell a movie on her name alone thanks to three big ones for director John Hughes. Heathers had three of them and a Veronica leading the way with Jack Nicholson impersonator, Christian Slater, almost pushed to the wayside.

Looking ahead there are potentially more female lead roles of significance on the horizon. Co-starring alongside daughter Mamie Gummer and performing her own singing, Meryl Streep is upfront of a rock and roll outfit in Rikki and the Flash, while Agent Maria Hill of The Avengers (Cobie Smulders) plays a school teacher falling pregnant the exact time as one of her most celebrated students in Unexpected. On a smaller scale, Wonder Woman is featured within next years Batman/Superman epic, while behind the desk secret admirer of James Bond, Miss Moneypenny continues on from her expanded role in Skyfall to battle an evil organisation alongside 007 in Spectre.

For the meantime, a breakout performance of the rude, crude, eventual heartfelt kind, catch Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, this manic comedy is anything but and swooning is unavoidable.

Shane A. Bassett

Sydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.