Blog Archives

Getting the Train back on Track

Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, was really everything I expected it to be – and more. As a fan of Apatow’s previous films and Schumer’s Comedy Central show, I anticipated the crude and vulgar humor. Still, the movie had heart. The film was truly laugh-out-loud funny and yet, I even got a little teary-eyed at the end. The film, the first that Apatow directed that he did not write himself, stars Schumer as a magazine columnist and Bill Hader – who brilliantly transitions from sidekick to leading man – as a sports physician. Schumer’s character profiles Hader’s Aaron — and the career-saving knee surgery he performs for athletes — for the stereotypical men’s magazine that she writes for. Amy sleeps with Aaron, but unexpectedly ends up falling for him.

TrainwreckAmy is the titular trainwreck. Following a speech from her father (played by Colin Quinn) who tells his children that monogamy is impossible, she grows up to drink a lot and sleep around. Not only does she think that true love is impossible, she focuses on “one night stands” because she doesn’t want to get too close to anyone. She worries about what will happen if she lets her guard down and lets other people into her life. If she never lets anyone in, then she will never get hurt.

Aaron refuses to let their relationship be a one night stand and has her stay the night, calls her the next day, and wants to see her again. She doesn’t know what to do. Amy begins to let her guard down, but having never cared for another, she still waits for them to breakup, eventually causing the breakup herself. The film concludes [spoiler alert] as so many romantic comedies do, with her realizing that she loves Aaron and works to reunite with him and get back together. She comes to understand that no relationship is easy or perfect, but she is still willing to try to make it work and attempts to change her ways.

As we prepare for the High Holy Days, one thing stood out to me – besides the brilliant comedic turns of John Cena and LeBron James: how others can help us change. Amy refuses to change, but it is only once Aaron enters her life that she realizes, because of him, that change is possible. The Hebrew month of Elul is focused change. This is our opportunity to do teshuvah, to let go of the past and change our ways. This is our opportunity to have a fresh start and be better in the year ahead. However, we often focus on self-reflection during this time of year. We are taught to do Cheshbon HaNefesh, an accounting of the soul, and focus on how we can change ourselves. Yet, we forget the impact that our actions have on others.

We are taught that we can’t control others; we can only control ourselves, so we should focus on ourselves. But we live in a world of interconnectivity, a world where we touch each other’s lives, a world where every interaction has consequences. As we seek to change, we have the ability to help others change. Every conversation, every interaction, every moment we experience with another –  those who we are closest to and those who are complete strangers – may influence us, and those we interact with, for the better.

Never underestimate your power to change and never underestimate your power to help others change as well.

moviepopelulimageTrainwreck, written by Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, was released in the United States by Universal Pictures on July 17, 2015. The film has already grossed over $100 million in North America and its opening weekend was the second biggest debut for Apatow. The film is Rated R for sexual content, partial nudity, and language. Viewer discretion advised.  

For more “Torah To Go” check out Rabbi O’s blog here.

-Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky

Stop Trying to be The Millers!

were-the-millersiamgepopelulI saw We’re The Millers this week, the current comedy now in theaters produced by Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema. While overall, I found the movie to be pretty funny, I warn you that the humor of this R-rated film was raunchy and inappropriate for children. The film centers around a small town hapless drug dealer (Jason Sudeikis) who, in order to settle a debt, agrees to be a drug smuggler, bringing a “smidge and a half” of Marijuana across the Mexican-US border. Concerned that he looks too much like a smuggler and would get stopped at the border, and fearing he’d subsequently be thrown in prison for eternity for such an illegal act, he recruits a band of misfits for help. This drug dealer is joined by an exotic dancer (Jennifer Aniston,) a homeless girl living on the streets (Emma Roberts,) and a teenage boy with nothing better to do (Will Poulter,) as they transform into the All-American “perfect family,” the Millers.

Traveling over the border in an RV, the belief was that this perfect family of four would never be stopped by the Border Police. Little did they know that this “smidge and a half” of Marijuana was actually an RV full of pot. Furthermore, they were not drug smugglers. Instead, they were drug thieves, actually stealing the drugs from Mexican drug lord Pablo Chacon (played by Tomer Sisley.)

While I don’t want to spoil the ending, I think we can all assume a happily ever after conclusion to this comedy. I cannot promise that they change their ways and stop their illegal activity. However, these characters realize how much they each have been missing, living life alone. They realize how fortunate they are for this family, even if it is a fake family full of oddballs and rebels.

Throughout the movie, as they continue to be the fake Miller family, they realize that they desire familial love. Fake father David and fake mother Rose are actually concerned about their fake children, and actually learn to love each other after loathing each other as apartment building neighbors for years. Fake siblings Casey and Kenny look out for each other and stick up for one another.

They realize though that being “the Millers” is no happily ever after fairytale either. They accept that there is no such thing as a perfect family. They are much better off being themselves, instead of trying to be someone else. So many of us try to be “the Millers.” We try to be the perfect family and we try to present an ideal image to the public, but every family has its challenges. Ultimately, it is those challenges that define us, that strengthen us, that make us who we are. No family is “perfect.” Yet, each family is perfect! There is no definition of what is perfect. There is no such thing as ideal. Instead, there are family units who love each other, who deal with the trials and tribulations of everyday life, and whose love only increases because of these trials and tribulations.

As the New Year approaches, let us spend less time focusing on who we think we are supposed to be, concerned with how others view us. Instead, let us focus on the love we have for each other and celebrate that love. Let us celebrate our family, no matter what that family looks like. Let’s stop trying to be “the Millers” and instead, just be ourselves.

moviepopelulimagePlease Note: “We’re the Millers” was released by Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema on August 7th, 2013 in the United States and has already grossed close to $50 million at the box office. The movie is rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material, and brief graphic nudity. The film continues a lot of swearing and inappropriate situations.


– Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky