Winter/Spring 2016: What I’m Loving Thus Far



Baskets — Pictured: Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Two words: Louie Anderson. It’s enough reason to tune in to this comedy of errors, and enough reason to keep watching week to week as he plays mother to Zach Galifianakis’ Chip Baskets. Reminiscent in tone of Louis C.K.’s Louie, Baskets (also co-created by Louis C.K.) follows the mostly discouraging lives (at least to anyone not living in Bakersfield) of an aspiring clown and those who weave in and out of his life. Galifianakis as the titular character has his moments, but it’s Anderson and the adorably average Martha, played wonderfully by Martha Kelly, who steal the show. That and the overt Costco/Kirkland product placement that is so prominent in the show’s mis-en-scène that it’s a hilarious/depressing reminder how prevalent Costco is for middle-class America.

I give you Christine Baskets:


The People V. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story

At times campy, at times moving – the first seven episodes of The People V. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, however, have been consistently riveting. With stellar performances from just about everyone (personal favorites include Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, and Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran), this re-telling of the OJ Simpson murder trial is the perfect dramatization for someone like me. I say that because as someone who was 8-9 years old at the time of the trial, I have enough memory of the overall story and the important characters (albeit I was a rather mature pop culture watcher for my age, thanks to my night-owl parents, and was already aware of Saturday Night Live and other late night talk shows that made Marcia Clark and Lance Ito the butt of many jokes). I didn’t, however, pick up on the conversations on race and how that became a turning point in the case, nor did I fully understand the sexism and embarrassment that Clark faced in the tabloid culture of the time. So now with grown-up eyes and ears, this anthology is absolutely entertaining and feels fresh. While others may feel they are reliving the case, for me it’s an opportunity to learn more details on the trial of the twentieth century. A great companion has been Vanity Fair’s fact-checking summaries following every episode, and it seems that the FX production hasn’t taken too many liberties – because sometimes real life really is too crazy to make up.

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

She has proved to be the voice that late night was missing. Not so much a “female” voice (whatever that really means), but a voice that has had enough of the insanity, the hypocrisy, and the injustices in our government, elections, politics, and news media that she’s not afraid to say how she feels. Samantha Bee was always one of the stronger correspondents during her tenure on The Daily Show, especially when it came to interviews with the inept. On her own show, she truly shines, while maintaining the importance of the role her gender does actually provide to this job:

The Americans


In anticipation of the fourth season of The Americans, I’ve been binging the first three seasons. Since its debut in 2013, I’ve heard from entertainment outlets and friends alike that The Americans is a show that needs to be watched. Last summer I finally set aside time to start the binge, and I haven’t regretted a moment. Not only is the plot gripping (a married American couple are actually spies for the Soviet Union!) but the violence and sexual encounters are very provocative for a cable series on FX (read: it’s not on HBO or Showtime). Enter Keri Russell who always has the most amazing hair and 80s turtlenecks and Matthew Rhys, who sometimes has unfortunate disguises but is otherwise handsome, and you’ve got a dynamic leading pair that produce a lot of onscreen chemistry (and off-screen too!). Beyond the storytelling, which luckily deviated from what felt was going to start being a procedural-style show in season one, The Americans has done an incredible job of incorporating pop music into the series, but without overdoing it (I love hearing everything from Fleetwood Mac and Phil Collins to YAZ). I have no idea where this show is taking us (except, you know, the Wall does eventually come down), but I am happily along for the ride.



The Influence of David Bowie in Pop Culture

There’s no doubt that the late David Bowie was an innovative, influential, genre-bending artist. And who didn’t love him, at least in some capacity? From the casual listeners to the fanatics, Bowie had an impact on all of us thanks to his presence in the pop culture zeitgeist—and a unique presence at that. I grew up getting into movies and television at an early age—probably too early—thanks to my parents’ interests. But I can’t say the same for music. Music for me was something that I later had to discover for myself, and a lot of that started in middle and high school as I became more and more in tune with my personality and growing tastes. Movies and TV were a gateway for me in learning more about music, and I was certainly someone who loved buying movie soundtracks (I still have the Batman Forever soundtrack, on cassette tape, because…you know…”Kiss from a Rose”). I’m pretty sure I knew who David Bowie was, and was aware of this guy called Ziggy Stardust, as a young child, but it wasn’t until he started popping up on soundtracks of movies that I got into in middle school that I actually started listening to him. Below I’ve rounded up just a few of the movie scenes that either play his music or reference him in some way, plus television shows that either feature Bowie or are dedications to him. I’m sure there are plenty more that I’m forgetting here, or just am not aware of, but that just goes to show how influential he was, and will remain to be.

2001’s A Knight’s Tale has to the real first time I remember hearing a David Bowie song and thinking, “What song is this? I love it!” The characters of this medieval set piece dance to “Golden Years,” and it’s a funky and hypnotic affair. Plus, I always think of Heath Ledger dancing when I hear it now. And I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

About a month after A Knight’s Tale was released, here comes Moulin Rouge (a movie I was certifiably obsessed with), which features three Bowie songs. You have his cover of “Nature Boy,” then Beck covers his “Diamond Dogs,” and then of course the Elephant Love Medley, which samples and adapts the lyrics of “Heroes.”


Adam Sandler must be a big Bowie fan, because at least two of his movies reference the songs “China Girl” and “Space Oddity.”

The Wedding Singer

Mr. Deeds


And maybe Drew Barrymore has a thing for him too, because in the sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle we get a short scene of her character having an alter ego, Lady Insane, complete with Bowie’s Aladdin Sane makeup, at the :50 second mark. Get it??


This is so random, but I saw the movie Bandslam on a bus in South America. It was a very long ride, so I had no real choice but to watch it. I somehow remember the plot, that the teenage protagonist’s music idol was David Bowie. Here’s an awkward scene where he tries to make some moves on Vanessa Hudgens, while voice-overing a letter to Bowie.

Who can forget this scene in Inglourious Basterds, leading to the climactic burning down of the theater? You’ve got your lady in red, and set along to “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” this montage is moody and quintessentially Tarantino and Bowie.

I can’t find the right clip, but “Moonage Daydream” pops up in Guardians of the Galaxy, as our heroes travel through space. Perfectly fitting for our Ziggy.

Another one where the clip just isn’t out there, but I wrote in my post about my favorite pop culture moments of 2015 that I loved the montage in The Martian when “Starman” graces our ears. This fan-made video gives you the idea of how those iconic guitar riffs set to outer space, and the moving, human story of The Martian, gel together so well.

My favorite Kiwi folk duo are also Bowie super fans. The sixth episode of Flight of the Conchords, aptly named “Bowie,” features not only their own song in the style of Bowie, but also features Jemaine Clement doing several specific Bowie impersonations.

“Bowies in Space”


For some reason a couple of years ago, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly decided to remake, nearly word for word, the “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” video that featured David Bowie and Bing Crosby. It ends with a classic proclamation from Bowie (aka Ferrell), yelling, “I’m David fuckin’ Bowie!” Indeed.

And then there’s Bowie’s cameo on Extras. To think that Bowie himself did this speaks to his sense of humor. And it somehow turns the lyric “little fat man” into a catchy tune.

My Favorite Pop Culture Moments of 2015

Movies, television, people, and moments that resonated with me this past year. And I’m warning you now, Star Wars pops up a lot.

Yes, I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but what really marked the story of 2015 was the buildup to the December 18th release. From the moment it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be directing Episode VII, I knew he wouldn’t disappoint us fans. But I felt even more confident and excited once the first teaser trailer was released in November 2014. Then we got the second teaser trailer in April 2015. It conveys everything that the Star Wars franchise is about, while of course recapturing the essence of the original trilogy, in limited words and scenes. In the second teaser, we finally hear the voice of Luke Skywalker. Then, boom: Han Solo and Chewbacca. Chills.


Catastrophe, a gem of a series, is the anti-RomCom RomCom we all wanted. I love nearly all things British, so I wasn’t at all surprised to fall in love with Rob and Sharon (played by Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan), as they play American guy and Irish woman who have a week-long tryst and end up pregnant. The show is brutally honest and funny, which means that it also has a big heart.

Admittedly, I started watching the Late Show with David Letterman at a very young age. I blame this on my mother, who has a habit of always having the TV on, and myself, who is a night owl. It’s fair to say I grew up watching Dave a lot, almost like a distant relative who was always there in the background. I remember every year watching his holiday episodes with Darlene Love belting Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) and Jay Thomas repeatedly coming on to tell the same story over and over again, followed by the annual football throw to dismantle a meatball pegged on top of the studio Christmas tree. And that’s only covering his holiday episodes! Dave created a tone for late night, mixing absurdity with honesty and heart. He’ll be missed on television, but never forgotten.

Carrie Fisher’s press tour for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been one helluva whirlwind. Like, the best kind of whirlwind you’d want to encounter. There are several moments to pull from, but it’s her appearance on Good Morning America that takes the cake, with her dog Gary Fisher making quite the cameo, and shows us why we love the unapologetic star. Plus, we got more of Carrie beyond Star Wars this year. Although a small part, she shone as the curt and scathing mother of Rob Delaney’s character in Catastrophe (and with Gary making yet another cameo!). The takeaway? Carrie Fisher is a national treasure.

There’s no denying that Oscar Isaac is a burgeoning acting powerhouse and star, mostly thanks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But for those us who have been keenly watching Isaac’s career take off in the last few years (guilty!), in such films as Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year, and his superb performance in HBO’s miniseries Show Me a Hero, we’ve known that he’s been destined for a multi-faceted and nuanced career. Plus, he’s charismatic as hell, on the screen and off. Much like Carrie Fisher, he’s had great moments during the Star Wars press tour showing this charisma, but he also proved this to us in this year’s sci-fi drama Ex Machina. And we’ll never ever forget the genius of his groovy moves as he tears up the f***ing dance floor (his words, not mine).


Most catchy, meta theme song ever? Why that belongs to Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Technically I had just watched all of the documentary miniseries The Staircase by the end of 2014, but I couldn’t stop talking about it all year whenever I talked true crime (and the blossoming popularity of the genre in TV and film) with someone. Although it aired in 2004, I had only heard about it last year. It’s 10 episodes are gripping, as you get a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the defense team building their case for Michael Peterson, a novelist accused of killing his wife. You’ll have much uncertainty throughout the circumstantial twists and turns this case takes, and question the United States justice system in the process. You can find the first six episodes here:


Season three of Nathan For You continued to push the limits of his brand of comedy – which actually has a surprising amount of humanity contained in its episodes, including a loose series-long arch of Nathan just trying to make human connections with the participants of his antics. There were many laugh out loud, cringe-worthy moments, but something about his creation of a Holocaust-awareness apparel company called Summit Ice sticks with me most. It even is a real functioning brand, with items available to purchase and all proceeds go to a good cause. Remember folks, deny nothing. You can watch him talking about the segment on Conan, here:

One of the more unique and human podcasts to premiere, Starlee Kine of Mystery Show inquisitively brings unique mysteries to life…and answers them. The best part is that you can’t predict what type of mysteries will be presented (i.e. What is Jake Gyllenhaal’s actual height? How did a local NYC video store disappear overnight? ). The worst part, we haven’t had a new episode since August. My particular favorite episodes are Belt Buckle (episode 3) and Britney (episode 2), in which Starlee is determined to track down Britney Spears for a friend.

31 seasons and counting, and Survivor has never been better. Thanks to a cast full of returning players (voted in by viewers) and new twists (more tribe swaps! Hidden Immunity Idols in challenges! Chaos Kass isn’t so chaotic after all!), this season delivered big time and ended with one of the series’ strongest final four and three. Plus, we got a lot of classic Keith Nale moments. Although there was an insane tribal council in the finale, the tribal council with the blindside of Andrew Savage, due to Kelley Wentworth’s idol, was a game changer…and so much fun to watch. As fellow contestant Stephen Fishbach simply puts it – “Wow.”

Network TV’s best comedy, Parks and Recreation, came to an end this year, and the show kept itself fresh by setting its last season in the future, in the year 2017. Amidst the silliness, Parks and Recreation never lost its heart and soul. Plus, we got an entire episode dedicated to Chris Pratt’s Andy Dwyer’s alter-ego, Johnny Karate, and depressingly spot-on fake commercials.

I did it. Finally. I watched the entire series of The Wire, the series that Entertainment Weekly crowned as the best television show of all time. I fell hard for the pragmatic storytelling, and even more so for the carefully nuanced characters, both good and bad. But what The Wire does excellently is portray that there is no easy definition of good and bad, and that it’s all relative to the circumstances and the environments that create a city’s social, political and economic structures.

The end of Mad Men is an end of an era, quite literally as the series portrayed American life and advertising culture from 1960-1970. The final shot of Don Draper, in all his mysterious, soul-searching and charming demeanor, brings us peace…and possibly brings him peace too, even if that peace results in an iconic Coca-Cola ad. And then there was Peggy’s story. A woman who climbed the ranks according to her own agenda and transcended the show’s own time frame to be a role model for modern feminism. The finale gave us the below scene, which the YouTube user labeled as “Peggy Olson walks into McCann Erickson like a badass,” which is all you really need to know.

There was some buzz when Sicario was released back in October, but for some reason it has nearly disappeared from the current awards season chatter. That’s a shame because Emily Blunt is a force to be reckoned with, as are her costars Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the bleak subject matter of the drug war between the United States and Mexico may be what the story revolves around, but it’s the beautifully haunting cinematography and superb performances that make you stay glued to the screen.

The edge to Spotlight is that it isn’t edgy. This film, about the investigative journalists of the Boston Globe uncovering the abuse in the Catholic Church, manifests simple, effective story telling. There’s no glitz and no glamour, which cements its authenticity alongside stellar performances by the whole cast.

My favorite moment from The Martian is indebted to Ziggy Stardust himself. During a montage scene, in which we see myriad characters living their daily lives while also doing their due diligence to bring astronaut Mark Watney home from Mars, David Bowie’s Starman non-diegetically plays. It’s the perfect song to portray the uplifting optimism needed among the characters, but also mixes in a sense of nostalgia and melancholy, unsure of what the future brings. I’m unable to find a clip of this scene from the film, but this video gives you the idea of the song and how it works with the film.

Conan as Lobot. Harrison Ford crushing Jordan Schlansky’s dreams. Carrie Fisher running her mouth. This hour of CONAN dedicated to Star Wars was just as earnest as it was side-splitting. It should also be noted that this is how you do a Star Wars tribute/interview set…maybe other late night hosts should take a hint.

Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show. The poised and thoughtful host has had many great moments over the years, too many to get into now. From the last show, I particularly enjoyed the taped segment of going around the entire staff in The Daily Show offices, set as an homage to the famous tracking shot in Goodfellas. To me, the presence alone of this segment speaks volume about Stewart’s character. And it may have made me tear up a little. Just a little though, I swear.

And thankfully there’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to fill the void that Jon Stewart left (don’t worry, Trevor, I think you’ll get there in time). His segment on the refugee crisis is important and necessary. And somehow he managed to pull off a Days of Our Lives taping into the whole mix, because that’s John Oliver for you.

Hell hath no fury like Furiosa. What a fun, hypnotic ride Mad Max: Fury Road was. Jam-packed with action, yet it never got old.

Fans of Wet Hot American Summer rejoiced with Netflix’s prequel series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, while those who never have seen the original movie were probably just confused. Sure, it’s full of inside jokes, but the campy nature (pun intended, of course), high levels of absurdity, and commitment by these actors is exactly what makes Wet Hot so great.


The season three premiere of Inside Amy Schumer was transcendent. From discussing sexism and ageism is Hollywood to singing about bodily functions, Schumer continues to make social commentary a theme in her comedy. My favorite sketch was tackling rape culture…á la Friday Night Lights. And a great Tammy Taylor impression to boot.

I was in awe of Better Call Saul’s first season. Here is a show, much like Breaking Bad, that lets a scene build with time, and lets it breathe.

I could watch Will Forte mess around in the desert with a collection of balls as friends any day. I wasn’t as crazy about the rest of The Last Man on Earth’s first season, but the pilot is golden.

Billy Eichner may rampage through the streets of New York with zeitgeist-infused questions and criticisms on his show Billy on the Street, but he is also a provocative presence on TV, subversively tackling bigger issues and calling out hypocrisy in entertainment and pop culture, such as his made-up “game,” Escape from Scientology.

The Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer is equal parts captivating and infuriating. Following the trial of a man for a grisly crime, who had previously served 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit (as he was later exonerated due to DNA evidence), this series should and will make you angry at the discrepancies in the United States justice system and how it fails to protect citizens that are the most vulnerable.

Lastly, on a lighter note…It can be frustrating if a Saturday Night Live prime-time player breaks (i.e. laughs) over and over again, but not when it’s the host and that host is Ryan Gosling. Thanks to Kate McKinnon’s characterization, professionalism, and commitment, she delivers probably this season’s best moment in this bizarre alien abduction sketch. The fact that she keeps it together, and her costars do not, was so entertaining to witness.

Ren Reviews: The Martian

The following review contains spoilers to the plot of The Martian. You’ve been warned!

The Martian is the film we need right now. When the news shows us horrific and confusing things day after day, we need something like The Martian to show us what it means to work together—whether it’s to save one man’s life, or to preserve the importance of working toward something bigger than ourselves in an unpredictable world.

I finished the novel The Martian (written by Andy Weir) moments before seeing the film. Literally. If you don’t already know, the story is about astronaut Mark Watney, who gets stranded on Mars by himself after a mission goes badly and his crew believes him to be dead. From there the plot revolves around Watney figuring out how to survive and how NASA back on Earth can help, if at all, in the process to somehow bring him home. I will say, I didn’t love the book. I liked the overall story, and enjoyed the surprisingly humorous tone, but it was exhausting at times to get through. I suppose reading some 500 video-diary entries from Watney’s POV will do that to you. And perhaps that was the point, to make you really feel the length of time that Watney had to survive on his own. But I was still excited to see the film because the story lends itself to amazing visuals, what with it being in space and on Mars and all.

Luckily I was right—I found the film so much more enjoyable. Matt Damon brings the perfect amount of wry humor to his characterization of Watney, and a perfectly cast crew on the Hermes spaceship (including Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, and Michael Peña) have wonderful little moments with one another. A couple things I didn’t love, particularly in relation to the book, was the “7 months later” time jump. That never happens in the novel. We continue to read daily updates (it skips days here and there), but never do we jump forward in that way. It takes away from the degree to which Watney struggles to survive. Maybe we could have seen a montage of sorts to see how he passed the time during those seven months. Plus, there are several more obstacles, almost deadly ones, that he faces while driving to the second MAV (his only option for getting off the planet), including losing all communication and being completely disconnected from NASA and the Hermes crew (and after working so hard to get it in the first place!). Of course, a film has to work within a certain time frame, unlike a book, so I can see why such things were sacrificed.

But here’s a couple more things I did like, and what I think makes this film a superior one—and something we haven’t seen in awhile. The cast and characters are diverse and we see not only a nation but the world invested in Watney’s, and ultimately the crew of Hermes’, safe return to Earth. The mission becomes a joint effort between the United States and China and in the process science and pioneering become bigger than just one country’s interest. Also, this is a story about survival and the drive to do whatever it takes when you’re facing extremes odds…odds that are severely against you. Speaking of whatever it takes, this story is about problem-solving. Watney is constantly a living example of ‘trials and tribulations,’ and so many people at home are doing the same. There’s a real sense of camaraderie between the NASA employees, even when personality types may clash or employees may be sleep-deprived in the process. There is one scene that particularly moved me, thanks to a little help from David Bowie. There’s a simple montage about two-thirds of the way in, with Watney on Mars, the Hermes crew on board, and various NASA employees in different settings—Bowie’s “Starman” plays as we go back and forth between the characters, all of them doing various things, from the quotidian to the important work needed to be done for the rescue mission. There was something so simple and beautiful about it, with this great rock song setting the perfect tone for the film.

In a world with bad news on a daily basis, we’ve also grown accustomed in recent years to pop culture that focuses on anti-heroes. We’ve begun to always root for the “bad” guy. Instead of a sci-fi story with a sadistic edge or a story with a clear antagonist who’s out to stop Watney, The Martian is a rarity in our entertainment landscape of dramatic stories. No one roots against him. And it was honestly a nice change to see unfold. This story has one objective—to bring Watney home—and the film succeeds in doing just that. Fortunately along the way we get to hear some sweet disco songs and David freakin’ Bowie.

News Discourse and the Refugee Crisis

Here’s the thing: news outlets need to be objective. The whole premise of journalism is to relay information (read: truth) to the public. Its objective is to be objective. As much as there may be earnest, objective journalists out there, however, news stories are filtered through news outlets – most of which are either government-funded or have commercial interests. And a political agenda, albeit sometimes subtle, usually accompany those interests. And how do you subtly inject a political agenda? You inject it through discourse.

Sunday night’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver dissected the news media’s (aka Fox News) attempts at infusing anti-immigrant, and ultimately anti-Muslim, slants in their segments. The clip in question shows a video playing with a chyron on the screen that read “Terrorists Inbound?” Needless to say, those language choices are extremely loaded with prejudiced slants. We’re talking about refugees here, and they label them as terrorists by questioning that they may be terrorists. But here’s the kicker—Oliver’s team points out that the video loop they have on screen was uploaded to YouTube in 2010. As in five years ago. How much more subjective (and offensive) can you get when you’re using an old video to propel the discourse you’re aiming to send out into the public sphere?

To be fair, it’s not just news media —governments are just as guilty at managing their agendas through discourse (as are corporations, advertising, etc.). Oliver used the example of British Prime Minister David Cameron referring to a large group of refugees as a “swarm.” The word clearly has negative connotations and invokes a sense of danger and vulnerability. How will refugees ever be treated with humanity and respect when world leaders—I repeat, world leaders—verbally insinuate that they are pests to be feared and dismissed? I hope the answer is that most good-hearted people watching the news and listening to politicians know when to ignore and see through the “bullshit mountain.”

I implore you to watch this entire segment from Last Week Tonight—it’s poignant, frustrating, heart-warming and really effin’ funny. I’m so glad we have people like John Oliver and Noujain Mustaffa in this world to make it just a little better.

Why We Need Jon Stewart #JonVoyage

It’s not often that I’ve found myself yelling at the television, “Yes! That’s exactly it!” or joyously agreeing with flailing arms—except for when I’m watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Jon Stewart was always the guy you knew you could count on when you needed someone to be on your side. I’ll miss his brilliant way of mixing the serious with the lofty, poignancy with the idiosyncrasies, and ultimately how much gravitas he brought to a late night talk show on cable—often more gravitas to any real news program. And that’s why I’ll really miss him: he’s a voice we desperately need among the loud, yelling, convoluted chatter that unfortunately takes precedent in our news media. Jon, I hope you grace our television screens real soon, in some form or another, because you’ll truly be missed.


*This review contains spoilers*

Like many other young adults, I saw Trainwreck over the weekend. I will go on the record and say that I’m a big fan of Amy Schumer (and pretty much the whole cast and director to boot) and that this movie made me consistently laugh out loud—or as the kids say, made me LOL (on second thought, are the kids still saying that?). The movie also made me cry. There were unexpected tender moments—and I was taken aback by Schumer’s dramatic, emotional acting chops.

However, I have a few hang-ups. The pacing doesn’t do the film any favors in selling the believability that Schumer’s character, Amy (natch), and Bill Hader’s character, Aaron, had made such a great bond in their courtship that they would go to the lengths they do in the story to be together. For the most part, Amy is truly a trainwreck. It’s not so much that she sleeps around and carouses more than the average person—it’s the way she sleeps around and carouses. In fact, she very much embodies the traditional male role that we typically see in (romantic) comedies. As funny as she can be, and deliver some great one-liners she does, the character can be infuriatingly pouty. Plus, we don’t ever grasp what it is that Amy likes about Aaron, or what Aaron likes about Amy. They have a few chuckles, and a few drinks, and then to his surprise, she takes him to bed on what we can consider their first date of sorts. And apparently for Aaron that is hook, line, and sinker. There are also no real stakes to their relationship. The audience is led to believe that they have great chemistry (and that she’s maybe becoming a better person because of him?) after a montage of them having fun dates traipsing around New York. That’s it. And when the big, climactic fight happens (as they always do), we’re not really rooting for either one of them.

Meanwhile, the film does have promising subplots that deliver great lines and laughs (memorable moments from Brie Larson, Mike Birbiglia, Randall Park, Jon Glaser, Vanessa Bayer, Colin Quinn and Tilda Swinton) but feel lost at times in between the ‘love plot’ with Aaron. That all goes to say that I walked away from the film thinking, “So was that a parody of romantic comedies?” So many elements in the film are classic rom-com clichés: Amy works as a magazine writer (and apparently she’s really good at it yet we hardly ever see her work); Amy lives alone in a Manhattan apartment (in what world?); Aaron is a doctor to star athletes making for awkward cameos by said star athletes; there are ‘falling in love’ montages; Amy feels pressure from younger sister who has already settled down; there’s a climactic fight; there’s a climactic ‘rebound’ scene (this was just weird!); and there’s a climactic performance to win back the guy. I mean, this is basically How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. With the exception of the storyline with Amy’s dad, everything else falls in line with what nearly all rom-coms do. Yet, this movie apparently isn’t aware that it’s a parody in the way that They Came Together is. There’s no nod or wink that they’re in on the joke. And that’s surprising, coming from Judd Apatow—who, at least in his earlier films, brought us subverted variations on the rom-com canon (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up). I expected to have one or the other—and if you’re not going to do either, then be your own type of rom-com that doesn’t fall into these stereotypes.

And so again, I find myself confused at what this film is trying to say. If you’ve watched Inside Amy Schumer, you might think this is supposed to be an intentional parody. But it’s serious undertones suggest otherwise. We’ll never know what may have gotten left on the cutting room floor, or what kind of studio notes were pushed through, but it does seem that even the filmmakers weren’t sure what to make of the final product. Because instead of ending with concrete dialogue and feelings and wrapping up loose ends, we’re left with a bizarre* cheerleading routine performed by Amy to win back Aaron. Just like the entirety of the movie, it was random and confusing…but gosh darn it, it still made me laugh.

*Plot aside, this was genuinely well executed by Schumer. Brava, girl.