Monday, 17 August 2015

Trainwreck brought a new type of character to the rom-coms, and it wasn't Amy's

Romantic comedies tend to follow a pattern: Boy meets girl, they start out with a bit of awkwardness but quickly fall for each other. Love grows, then he messes things up, she eats a bucket of ice cream and he does a big romantic gesture to apologize so she takes him back. They kiss and the world is happy again.
I love how Saturday Night Live nailed the formula with this short sketch:

And then there's Trainwreck. Get ready for spoilers as I will mention some elements of the plot....

At least she's using a brown paper bag
Trainwreck is a movie that tweaks things up a bit by showing a world where the girl does all the things usually reserved for the guys in the rom-com genre and vice-versa...

By that I mean...

Has commitment issues and freaks out a little bit when Aaron gets serious.
Is looking for a serious relationship. He says "I love you" first, and early on.
Has a hot but dumb lover and lots of side guys.
It's been a long time since he's dated anyone.
Talks about hook ups with her friend from work and is not expecting a call back.
Talks frequenly about his feelings with his friend (a very sympathetic Lebron James).
Makes her work a priority (she even goes to take a phone call while Aaron is giving an important speech).
Makes the relationship a priority (he even stays late talking with amy the day before a big surgery).
Drinks, smokes, wears short dresses and is not compromising her personality and/or tastes so a guy likes her.
Puts up with Amy drinking, smooking and wearing short dresses, only making tame remarks but adapting completely to her ways.
After she's asked to “take a break”, she realizes she misses Aaron and organizes a big choreographed apology to get him back.
After being tired of being let down, he asks Amy for “a break”, but then takes her back when she does a big romantic gesture.
Is single.
Is lonely.

And so the guy wins her heart again with music...

Would this movie have worked if Amy was the guy and Aaron was the girl? Probably, and it would have been a textbook adition to the genre. But I think that the key to its success was the twist: not revolutionary enough to deviate from the foolproof money-making formula, but far enough to bring something new to the table.

And by new I don't mean a character like Amy, but one like Aaron...

You'll see, there's plenty of "trainwrecks" in the rom-com department, for example:

Bridget Jones (Bridget Jones's Diary): who was described by another character as "A verbally incontinent spinster who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and dresses like her mother".

Annie Walker (Bridesmaids): A drunk, broke and jealous friend that means well but keeps messing things up and pushing people apart.

Tammy (Tammy): Just lost her job, husband cheated on her and her family is not that supportive, except for nana-trainwreck, her alcoholic grandmother with whom she goes off on a road trip.

You can either wine up or rob a fast food restaurant
But there is something missing from these ladies' lives: a character that from now on I'll call a "Manic Pixie Dream Boy".
Quick context here: In 2007, the term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" was coined to refer to "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."

For example: Allison (Zooey Deschanel) in Yes Man, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) in Almost Famous, Giselle (Amy Adams) in Enchanted, and Polly (Jennifer Anniston) in Along Came Polly.
More or less, they arrive in this world to teach a guy that's a bit neurotic and cynic how to be happy and enjoy life. 
"How wonderful life is, now you are in the plot..."

So, the Manic Pixie Dream Boy would be a guy that falls in love with a leading lady, and who seems like the ideal catch: kind, good looking (well, at least in my opinion he is), understanding, and with a low key personality (see how she gave out to him for hours and he just sat there listening). He's not afraid of saying I love you and he calls the next day. He's not that strong in the personality department (his article got cut off because he was boring) but doesn't have any particular flaw either and seems determined to "be there" for her and make her happy. 

He's the guy that you can introduce to the family and be sure everyone will like him (they'll secretely think he's a bit too good for you): he won all the guys with sports stories, and the fact that he's a doctor reinforces his "keeper" title among the ladies. Ah, and he volunteers for Doctors Without Borders. The only thing missing was a scene where he was saving a puppy's life and helping baby turtles get to the ocean.

Unlike other wooers in girl-oriented movies, this Manic Pixie Dream Boy doesn't make her adapt to himself, but the other way around (I can't imagine Edward Cullen living life Bella's style and having Sunday lunch at her dad's house, nor Christian Grey becoming a vanilla kissy-kissy hand holding boyfriend, for example). And that was the really refreshing element I found in this movie: a nice guy that accepts a girl with a strong personality and is willing to be the compromising one.  

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