dir. Judd Apatow
written by: Amy Schumer
starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, LeBron James, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller
3.25 out of 4 stars
Amy Schumer is easily my biggest obsession right now. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey had dominated my stolen comedy in everyday life to an uncomfortable extent. I would recite soliloquies from 30 Rock’s sixth season to blank stares from my audience. One can only call another “a beige tube with fingers” so many times before others question one’s sanity. But I couldn’t help it, and it persisted: Alec Baldwin as Nixon haunting my dreams; fantasies of a Donna/Craig spinoff show in Seattle–a concept I still intend to realize; and then there was Kimmy Schmidt, but that’s a whole other festering fixation.
Fortunately a filthy female comedian started to appear with Melissa McCarthy-style ubiquity to mixed perception. But as others don’t particularly matter, I loved her comedy. Amy Schumer, who premiered on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, a show in a genre I never consume despite a history of comics I have enjoyed, suddenly appeared in my life. Mostly Sex Stuff was on Comedy Central late night, and then I found Inside Amy Schumer on Hulu. I had a new comedic woman to stalk (legal note: not literally).
When I first heard about Trainwreck, my expectations immediately hit unpleasant heights. This writer and actress that has portrayed the worst of her society, making herself the butt of a joke until some fans believed she was a generally dysfunctional person, wrote a screenplay directed by Judd Apatow. I hate high expectations.
I was pleased with the result. The script overflowed with Schumer style caricatures of overinvolved mothers, unsuspecting love interests, and plenty of sex. The amount of heart behind the story was surprising. Trainwreck follows Amy (Schumer), a 30-something magazine reporter who has followed her father’s advice to avoid monogamy through her adult life. She bounces between casual relationships and hookups until meeting a sports surgeon Aaron (Bill Hader) with whom she accidentally develops a relationship. Amid a disastrous series of choices, Amy has to examine what it is she wants and whether she can actually make her decision any longer.
Trainwreck’s detractors have touted that the film divulged into a too stereotypical storyline. Why did Amy change her ways to be with this guy? The story isn’t terribly original, but what romantic comedy really is? People meet, there’s drama, there’s a resolution. Amy doesn’t slowly accept her suddenly monogamous lifestyle with the ever charming man in her life. She screws up, because she never expected this to happen, nor did she realistically want it to. Her father stands by the lessons he imparted and stands by, and her sister tears them down as fast as they are defended by Amy. She is at odds with her world, and her character appears human.
Unfortunately, the tonal shifts in the movie, switching from raucous laughter to surprisingly heartfelt but depressing scenes disconnected the flow of the movie for me. Where the issue originates–in screenwriting, in direction, in editing–escapes me without a second viewing, but I couldn’t get drawn into Amy’s story.
The rollercoaster effect was nicely disguised with exceptionally funny interactions between the hilarious ensemble cast. Amy Schumer continues her spot on comedic timing showcased on Inside Amy Schumer. Her dramatic chops are developing nicely; she can show a character’s vulnerable side, but she might want to avoid crying too heavily. Bill Hader proves to have leading man charm as a love interest with little backstory but a surprising amount of suave demeanor and accomplishments to boast. What he is given is returned with honesty much like his performance in last year’s The Skeleton Twins. However, I may just love him in general and may have a significant bias.
The supporting ensemble is superb. The ever fantastic Brie Larson brings her genuinity as the sister who got married and has a stepkid. The sisters have chemistry and own their shared history, even if the memories sank in differently. Colin Quinn plays the brash father with his usual jackass appeal. Dave Attell sticks with you as Amy’s homeless neighbor. Vanessa Bayer has some choice lines as Amy’s coworker, but she disappears as the relationship develops. LeBron James brings on the laughs at the best times, making a stunt casting that worked (Schumer admitted to putting in James as a placeholder). Many of the Schumer regulars (Bridget Everett, et. al.) make brief appearances and are used to their best effect. Highlight is always Tilda Swinton of course. Tilda Swinton steals her scenes as Amy’s demanding boss Dianna. The most enthusiastically crass editor, her delivery left you with no idea where the conversation might go. Her staff is visually shaken at their meetings. Miranda Priestly would be proud.
Trainwreck is expectedly entertaining but controlled humor from Amy Schumer. Uneven pacing and choppy thematic shifts distracted from a coherent relationship development. Great ensemble cast overshadowed direction.