Rated R. Running time: 2 hours 5 min.
Our content ratings (1-10); Violence 1; Language 5; Sex 8/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
The latest Judd Apatow-directed venture is a feminist take on sex and commitment (or rather, avoidance of it) that would be good for church groups to discuss—but probably risky because of the film’s sex scenes and foul language. Written by the cable TV sensation Amy Schumer, the script is far superior to that of most summer comedies, transporting us into the “trainwreck” life of a promiscuous young woman (she could be the poster person for the apostle Paul’s campaign against sexual promiscuity) who eventually turns her life around.
Most sex comedies feature a man as the bang “em and leave ‘em partner, but in this story Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) is the one preferring one-night stands. We see her numerous encounters in which she leaves before dawn, even pretending to go to sleep after a climax at the end of one tryst. She does have a muscle-bound boyfriend Steven (John Cena), but sees no sense in limiting her sexual gymnastics to him. At the very beginning, in a flashback scene, we see how Amy came by her lack of commitment. Her father Gordon (Colin Quinn) tells nine year-old Amy and her younger sister Kim, “Monogamy isn’t realistic.” He insists that the pair repeat this after him, which they do. The adult Amy has retained that lesson, but Kim (Brie Larson) has moved beyond it, marrying Tom (Mike Birbiglia), who has a son named Allister.
Kim is estranged from their father because he was never supportive of them when they were growing up. Thus it is just Amy who regularly visits him, helping him to enter an assisted care facility because of his multiple sclerosis, and arguing with Kim about the high cost of his care. We learn some of this past history while the sisters are sorting through and discarding (some of) their father’s large collection of Mets memorabilia.
Amy is a staff writer at S’Nuff magazine, the readership of which must be raunchy, self-important jet setters attracted by such articles as, “You’re Not Gay, She’s Boring,” and “Ugliest Celebrity Kids Under Six.” At a story conference fast-talking editor Dianna (Tilda Swinton) coaxes out ideas from her staff. When a male writer suggests a story on the rising go-to sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), Amy puts down the idea, declaring, “Sports are stupid.” Dianna, instantly thinking that Amy would bring a fresh attitude to the story, gives her the assignment, to the chagrin of both her and her male colleague.
Thus begins Amy’s long, difficult journey toward embracing monogamy, despite her father’s teaching. Their “meet cute” episode in the doctor’s office starts out by Amy’s lie that she knows a lot about sports, Aaron quickly realizing her total ignorance. Despite her attempt at deception, he is attracted to her. Back at S’Nuff’s office he calls her for a date that very night. Over a period of days she finds that he is not like the self-centered men she had met, but a sweet and vulnerable man who, contrary to her father, believes in monogamy, and not just the serial kind favored by so many men, but a lifetime affair.
Of course, there has to be a break up to make the story interesting. Even Amy’s article about Aaron is dropped because Dianna declares that Aaron is “boring”—no scandal or anything in the life of this straight shooter. What Amy does when she comes to what I have often called a Luke 15:17 moment (“when he came to himself) is both admirable and enjoyable.
Part of the delight in this last half of the film is Lebron James playing himself as Aaron’s best friend, as well as a patient. Turns out he is good as an actor as well as a player able to tear up the basketball court. Happy to see his friend date for the first time in five years, he takes an active interest in their relationship, even getting some others to join him in an intervention during the period when Aaron and Amy are estranged.
The climax is one of the most unusual lovers’ reconciliation scenes that I have seen—right on the basketball court with the Knicks City dancers performing along with Amy. Okay, it really is the other way around, Amy able to make about three-fourths of the team’s moves. Also touching is an earlier memorial service that, while not religious, features one of the best truth-telling testimonials I have ever heard. Preachers, tempted to make instant saints of the deceased, would do well to emulate Amy as she levels with the congregation about the kind of man her father was—truth telling laced with a lot of love.
Unlike most summer comedies, this is one that will stay with you. I was intrigued by some of the reviews that I read in preparation for seeing the film in which the reviewer declares that Amy, both the character and the writer, sold out by Amy’s deciding to marry Aaron. Apparently embracing the promiscuous lifestyle of the early Amy (and her father), several reviewers expressed their disappointment at the outcome of the film. Such views would have been unheard of a few decades ago. While I am glad for the turn around of the public’s view on gays and lesbians, not all of the cultural shifts of society are as noble. Surely a lifestyle of sexual promiscuity, whether of males or females, undermines the stability of society (unlike the claims of those opposed to gays and lesbians). Monogamy does not guarantee “and they lived happily ever after,” but promiscuity, whether female or male, will guarantee that its practitioners will not.
This review with a set of 7 discussion questions is in the August 2015 Visual Parables.