2015, R, 125 min. Directed by Judd Apatow. Starring Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, LeBron James, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Mike Birbiglia, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Jon Glaser, Ezra Miller, John Cena, Dave Atell.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., July 17, 2015
Trainwreck is written by and stars a woman who spawned a girl-crush nation last month by announcing in an awards speech that “I'm probably like 160 pounds right now and I can catch a dick whenever I want.” Those new converts were no immaculate conception, just a swelling of the ranks: Amy Schumer already enlists legions of fans, both female and male, hooked on the emotional confessionalism mashed with sailor-talk swagger that she showcases every week on her Comedy Central skit show, Inside Amy Schumer.
Now in its third season, the show has become a viral-video factory, crowding Facebook feeds with clips that aren’t just funny but brilliantly bracing in their puncturing of societal assumptions about attractiveness. In May, an entire episode was devoted to the question of whether Schumer was fuckable enough to be on TV, posed as a 22-minute-long parody of 12 Angry Men. In less self-assured hands, the episode could have gone monstrously wrong – but it didn’t. It may be the best thing yet on TV this year.
In her first foray into filmmaking, Schumer plays a hard-drinking magazine writer named Amy (hmmphh) whose philosophy on romance springs from her father’s example, established in a stealthily touching flashback wherein Amy’s dad (Quinn) tries to explain to his two young daughters why their parents are splitting up, and why monogamy is for chumps. The film doesn’t require Schumer’s haphazard voiceover to explain that this moment encapsulates adult Amy’s origin story – how it’s the rationale for why she enthusiastically sleeps around but doesn’t stick around for after-sex spooning, in a welcome contrast to romantic comedy’s usual template for heroines.
Amy appears to go for guys below her punching weight, until a magazine assignment puts her in the path of a sweet-tempered sports medicine specialist, Aaron (Hader, never better). They meet powerfully cute – as a pure romantic comedy, the film zings in this early stretch of jesting courtship – then tumble into a relationship that challenges her core beliefs.
Less challenged are director Judd Apatow’s. For all the potty-mouthed bluster of his hard-R comedies, they all tend to end up in the same conventional place. The hero hits rock bottom, resolves to flush all that bad behavior out of his system, and finds salvation in a traditional romantic and/or family unit. Schumer’s Amy, it turns out, is dispiritingly no different from all those man-child types.
Schumer is at her best when she’s playing the fun-times gal. She has a dim-bulb delivery – it’s only when she cocks her head or narrows her eyes that she signals the bulb is brighter than day. She’s wobblier with drama, but then so are Apatow’s films, which historically sputter in the third act, after the thrust engines have peeled off and the running time starts to spread and congeal.
Trainwreck can be furiously funny. It just goes down too easy. It’s scared of its own sharp edges. The sly raging against the machine of Inside Amy Schumer has gone missing. Here, the rage, curiously, is turned inward.