For a film celebrating the often awkward ridiculousness of adult relationships, Trainwreck shines brightest when focusing on the heart.
Color me a disgrace to my sex, but I’ve never been a fan of the traditional romantic comedy. Sure, I can go in for a great script with complex characters and witty dialogue (something along the lines of Four Weddings and a Funeral) — however, watching Julia Roberts find love with a high-powered executive whilst waxing philosophical on her egg count, stuffing my face with Haagen-Dazs and having a good old-fashioned ugly cry does not exactly spell a typical Saturday morning for this writer. Well, not the former part, anyway. It would be fair to say that I am not the target audience for such fare; consequently, it pleases me to report that Trainwreck is not your typical romantic comedy, albeit a typical post-modern romantic comedy. You know — role-reversals, penis jokes, and cameos abound. But it must be said: the Amy Schumer-helmed, Judd Apatow-directed Trainwreck does all of the above well.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Amy (Amy Schumer) is a serial one-nighter with an unfulfilling job writing for a men’s magazine. No, she’s not your typical “cool girl” that loves sports and wears lingerie while eating a pizza during the NBA Draft; she’s a selfish commitmentphobe with an ailing father (Colin Quinn), a sister (Brie Larson) who seems to have it all together, odd friends (Vanessa Bayer), and a sardonic wit that’s just so darned infectious. When she’s assigned a story on surgeon-to-the-sports-stars Aaron (Bill Hader), the two have an instant connection that predictably becomes the wrench in Amy’s life plan, threatening to spiral her right into grown-up coupledom and everything she’s always feared.
Yes, the plot reads a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure of romantic comedy tropes, but let me assure you Schumer zigs every time you thing she’ll zag. The script is peppered with knee-slapping laughs, witty dialogue, and complex characters with actual, real-life problems. Schumer throws a few stand-up lines in there for good measure, but for the most part she gives her best ones to Tilda Swinton’s Dianna (the boss from hell) and, amazingly, LeBron James. (We’ll get to him in a moment.) The final act is one we know is coming; consequently, Amy’s story – and ensuing struggle – is so well arranged that the dénouement feels truly earned. Although it could be said that Trainwreck‘s Amy is just another character from Inside Amy Schumer, a feature-film version of her stand-up self, by the end the viewer might just want film-Amy as their best friend. Hell, I want the real-life Schumer as my best friend. Someone should get on that…
When lead actors pulls double, and sometimes triple duty as actor-writer or actor-writer-director, an aspect of the film can suffer – whether it be story, performance, or direction (I’m looking at you, post-Garden State Zach Braff). Although I would have liked to see what Schumer could do behind the camera, that honor was awarded to Judd Apatow this time. And in her first leading theatrical vehicle, that probably seemed a safe bet. I would not say that Trainwreck is groundbreaking by any means in terms of shot design, scene coordination, or overall feel. The film’s runtime is a bit long – cutting ten or so minutes would have helped the pacing – and some shots come together in such a way that is often jarring for a romantic comedy. Apatow relies too much on silly moments that do not exactly fit within Schumer’s well-paced and buoyant story. A particularly cut-worthy scene involves a phoned-in cameo by Matthew Broderick that might illicit a few laughs for Chris Evert and Marv Albert, but it really has no place in the climax of the film. The jokes have time to breathe, and the overall performances Apatow garners from his actors are quite exquisite, however. With a lot of help from Schumer, I’d chalk it up as another “win” for the Apatow machine.
Make no mistake, Amy Schumer is a star; it is not just her comedic timing or dynamic presence on the screen that carries this film – when Amy is truly suffering, Schumer’s pain is palpable. Her sense of character is so well grasped, the film is best when we get to take a break from the laughs and concentrate on the experience of human emotion. Vanessa Bayer is predictably hilarious, and Tilda Swinton – of course – steals any scene she occupies. When LeBron James gets involved, he’s just so likable as, well, a heightened version of himself. We get just enough LeBron to enjoy every moment he’s in the film. It is obvious everyone was having a good time. Colin Quinn and Brie Larson round out a dysfunctional family that seem like they could be related to you. However, the true bright shining star of Trainwreck is Bill Hader’s Aaron. Tanya Foster of filmfashionfun.com asked recently in a review “…who knew [Hader] could pull off leading man?” And how! He’s a modern Jimmy Stewart on screen – swoon-worthy, sweet, and full of charisma; you root for him in every act. When life threatens Aaron’s relationship with Amy, Hader’s ability to feel those moments and demand the audience pay attention to his agony is heart-stopping. Apatow is known for procuring these types of career-making performances from actors like Steve Carell and Seth Rogen; Schumer and Hader are no exception. The performances truly are remarkable.
Do not get me wrong: though I feel the film soars highest in its darker moments – and trust me, you may actually need tissues – the comedy is on-point. Schumer is everywhere right now for a reason. This is not one of those films where the best laughs are spoiled in the trailer; the comedy is often edgy and borderline raunchy, however I chose these adjectives to be read in the best possible way. Trainwreck is this year’s best date movie, one of the better all-around casts, and certainly loads of fun. Be prepared to feel the feels for Hader, fall in love with Schumer, and want to sleep with Swinton.