Directed by: Judd Apatow
Premise: A young woman (Amy Schumer) who has no interest in romantic commitment falls for a doctor of sports medicine (Bill Hader), causing her to panic.
What Works: Trainwreck is a romantic comedy. Although the movie remains firmly within the boundaries of the genre, the filmmakers do the romantic comedy conventions very well and with a little more humor and intelligence than usually figure into this kind of picture. For a movie like this to work it must have two people who the audience will want to see end up together and the movie succeeds at that. Trainwreck is led by Amy Schumer as a young woman who teeters between free spiritedness and disaster; she spends her days writing sexy but dumb magazine articles and her social life is a series of drunken one night stands. She is unexpectedly assigned to write a profile of a doctor who treats professional athletes, played by Bill Hader. When the two of them hit it off, she is plunged into a crisis between her comfortable but uncommitted lifestyle and the uncertainty of a meaningful relationship. Amy Schumer and Bill Hader make a credible and likable couple; they are agreeable on screen but their characters have to overlook or overcome each other’s personal eccentricities to make the relationship work. That gives them a dimension of reality. Adjacent to the romantic storyline is drama involving Schumer’s character and her family; her father (Colin Quinn) is in a nursing home and her sister (Brie Larson) is irritated with the immaturity of Schumer’s character. Quinn and Larson bring some gravity to the movie and offer some insight to Schumer’s character; Larson in particular is really strong and makes an effective counterpoint to Schumer. Despite its dramatic subplot, Trainwreck is primarily a comedy and the film is very funny and delivers laughs at a consistent pace. Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live alums Schumer and Hader are comedy pros and they do well in their parts. What is surprising are the humorous performances by non-comics. WWE wrestler John Cena, NBA player LeBron James, and dramatic actress Tilda Swinton contribute a lot to the comedy.
What Doesn’t: Trainwreck is very much a product of its writer and star Amy Schumer and director Judd Apatow. That is both for better and for worse. Schumer comes from a background in standup and sketch comedy and Trainwreck features narration that sounds like it is right out of her stage routine. A lot of the narration is redundant, spelling out what’s readily apparent to the viewer. Schumer has a natural screen presence but her dramatic skills aren’t nearly as strong as her comic abilities. There are some dramatic moments in Trainwreck and Schumer isn’t quite up to delivering the material that she has written. The movie generally conforms to the romantic comedy template and it rarely deviates from it. The filmmakers do the genre tropes well but this safe material is a little disappointing coming from Amy Schumer. The skits and stand up topics on her show have been edgy and intelligent and in that respect Trainwreck is a step backward for the comedian. Trainwreck was directed by Judd Apatow and the film displays several of the director’s familiar themes. This is essentially the same story Apatow has told before in films like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up in which the lead character emerges from adult adolescence and like most of Apatow’s films the resolution is oversimplified. Trainwreck suffers from Apatow’s most consistent fault as a filmmaker: the movie is too long. Running just over two hours, Trainwreck has numerous scenes that should have been trimmed and running gags that are recalled into the ground. Apatow needs a more diligent editor or at least someone who will tell him to cut otherwise good stuff in the name of pacing.
Bottom Line: Trainwreck is a fine comedy. It does not reinvent the romantic comedy but Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow do it very well and Trainwreck injects the genre with a contemporary sensibility while delivering laughs at a steady clip.
Episode: #552 (July 26, 2015)