TRAINWRECK Movie Review: An Inverted Romantic Comedy

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I think I’m in love with Amy Schumer.

This past couple years I’ve been happily following her meteoric rise to fame which started, at least to me, with the hilarious and incredibly insightful Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer. The show title is fitting because Schumer’s brand of comedy is intensely personal. Her jokes tend to be self-deprecating but also culturally introspective. This season in particular has been amazing. From a brilliant satire of Friday Night Lights and sports rape culture, to an entire episode in which Schumer examines the question of whether she’s “hot enough” to be on television using a near perfect Twelve Angry Men parody, Schumer’s show has consistently knocked it out of the park.

It makes sense, therefore, that a few years ago director Judd Apatow told Schumer to write him a movie. What Schumer brought him was Trainwreck, an intensely personal examination of both Schumer’s life in her mid thirties as well as our culture at large.

Trainwreck is the story of 34 year old Amy (Schumer), a writer for the fictional S’nuff magazine living in New York City. If you couldn’t guess by the name, S’nuff is a trashy men’s rag that writes such amazing articles as “You’re not gay, she’s just really boring.” Schumer, like her magazine is trashy and carefree; eschewing the traditional monogamous lifestyle and choosing instead to go out, get drunk, smoke weed and sleep with whoever she wants to. But when Amy is assigned an article profiling famed sports doctor Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), things start to change. The two hit it off and, against her better judgement, Amy is shocked to find she really likes the doctor and finds herself in the exact kind of relationship she’s always ran away from.

Trainwreck’s secret is it’s actually a very standard Romantic Comedy, only inverted. Instead of being about a man living a carefree, sex-fueled lifestyle and being settled down by a woman, it’s Schumer’s character that is pulled into this relationship with the caring, sensitive, and monogamous Connors. It is in this that the brilliance of Schumer’s style of comedy is revealed. Schomer, not traditionally “Hollywood” skinny or beautiful is playing the traditional sex hungry role occupied by Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler in more traditional films of this ilk. The comedy does a great job in exposing the inherent sexism in this type of story and in the viewers. I’ve heard a lot of people on the internet tear down Schumer, saying she isn’t pretty enough to sleep around or get the type of guys she does. But we’re apparently completely ok with around three thousand Adam Sandler movies in which he’s a complete loser who manages to land incredibly beautiful women? Amy Schumer is trying to bring about these reactions and in doing so ends up telling us about ourselves.

The type of humor the film portrays is typical of both Apatow and Schumer; that is frequently crude and openly sexual at times, earning its R rating in spades. But all of this, while being hilarious, is absolutely necessary for the film. It doesn’t shy away from portraying the lifestyle that Amy is living, nor does it insult it. Instead, the film tries to be introspective. Amy doesn’t start moving away from living her life like this because it’s she’s saying it’s wrong. Rather, she’s just growing up and reaching a new phase of her life. Like most things, these new phases tend to be brought about by external factors. In Amy’s case, it’s Aaron Connors. As a man on the cusp of his 30s, I found myself relating to the ability of aging to slowly pull us out of lifestyles we once enjoyed.

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While both Schumer and Bill Hader shine bright, the minor characters in the film are all great as well. John Cena in particular is absolutely hilarious. However, one of the most surprising performances in the movie was that of Lebron James as…well Lebron James, or at least a not-entirely-accurate version of himself. Trainwreck’s Lebron James is the sensitive, caring, and hilariously cheap best friend of Aaron Connors. I’m not saying Lebron is a good actor; far from it. But he’s better than expected. So we finally have one thing that ‘Bron does better than Michael Jordan.

Like previous Judd Apatow features, the direction isn’t too flashy. Apatow doesn’t really do much with the camera. We get a couple of visual jokes, but most of the time Apatow sets up a tripod and tells the actor to spout off their hilarious (and mostly improvised) dialogue. While I wish the comedy would be a little more cinematic, I understand Apatow is no Edgar Wright. He sticks to his strengths here and it works. The film is unfortunately, slightly too long, a frequent complaint in Judd Apatow films. It drags a little in the middle of the second act and could use about 15-20 minutes of cutting to really tighten it up.

Overall, Trainwreck is a funny, introspective, but surprisingly traditional romantic comedy that’s just one scene too many preventing it from being truly great. Amy Schumer’s star continues to rise and after this great film, shows no signs of stopping.  I’m already looking forward to what she’ll do next.

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