I recommend seeing Trainwreck – as long as you don’t go in with a rabid Inside Amy Schumer obsession and astronomical expectations like I did. I watched the movie ease me in with a conventional one night stand montage – though this one perpetuated by Amy Schumer instead of the standard leading man – that establishes how Amy truly took to heart her dad Gordon’s (Colin Quinn) mantra: “Monogamy is not realistic.”
I kept waiting for the movie to take an unexpected turn, following an unbelievably witty plotline I never saw coming to a heartwarming, yet insightful conclusion. Something like Knocked Up, but better by harnessing both the writing and acting power in Amy Schumer’s feature film debut. Well that never happened. But if you’re not looking for the best romantic comedy of the 21st century, and will settle for one much better than average then Trainwreck is your movie.
As much as Trainwreck draws from Amy Schumer’s real past experiences like her dad’s multiple sclerosis and even dating a pro wrestler, this movie still comes across as a case of creative enabling. Written by Amy Schumer, the stand-up and sketch up-and-comer, and directed by Judd Apatow, the comedic powerhouse behind The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad and even Girls, both have a preference for relatability over cohesive story. They get the moments, like Amy slowly navigating a cracked Staten Island sidewalk in high heels not suited for the job. Those instantly funny gags and cringe comedy set-ups ground the movie with Apatow’s improv-based directing style, drawing performances from the actors that amplify Schumer’s already strong script. Yet Amy’s short -orm chops can’t always fill in the gaps between these compelling moments in this 124-minute romantic comedy.
Amy plays a woman, also named Amy, who lives in New York City working for a magazine, something like a trashier GQ mixed with Buzzfeed called S’nuff. She considers herself to be living the dream, smoking weed and drinking at 30ish with all the raunchy excess of an aimless twenty-something. As a female main character with an insatiable appetite for one-night stands, Amy effectively translates her brand of feminist humor into this rom com. Even Amy’s relationship with her sister Kim (Brie Larson) grounds the film using, for a change, Kim’s husband Tom (Mike Birbiglia) and stepson Allister (Evan Brinkman) for punchlines instead of the other way around.
Not only does Amy not get attached to the men that she dates, but when her closest-thing-to-a-boyfriend Steven (John Cena) sincerely pushes commitment, a stoned Amy dumps him without an ounce of tact or consideration. Amy operates with a disregard for the quid pro quo of sex normally reserved for men and effectively flips the gender stereotypes we are so used to seeing in this genre and film in general. A manizing female main character with a supporting cast of strong women expands the rom com genre enough to be worth seeing period.
Yet Amy’s sensitivity for feminism can’t entirely save a movie that relies on rom com tropes almost as often as it breaks them. In a pinch, Amy often enters scenes mocking Kim’s extra precocious stepson Allister, for example, and delivers a round of hilarious one-liners while everybody on screen just listens as the audience does. With the humor coming primarily from Amy’s written dialogue, whether that be from her mouth, Bill Hader’s or even LeBron James’s, the slower scenes where one liners would feel out of place end up dragging on. Sad scenes prove to be Schumer’s weak spot where she resorts to tried and true tropes to send us to the next funny scene where Amy can do what she does best.
If Trainwreck were solely composed of swollen scenes and tired tropes then it would be an easy throwaway movie, a forgettable freshman effort for an established sketch star entering into the world of features. But luckily this movie refuses to be put into such a box. Those moments, those visceral moments that make funny scenes, largely overpower the negatives. And lest I generalize, one sad scene towards the end of the film really hits home Schumer’s tenuous relationship with her dad without coming off as sappy or as a temporary space filler between scenes.
A star studded cast of main cast and cameos including Tilda Swinton as Amy’s callous boss, Brie Larson as Amy’s sensitive sister and even Method Man as Amy’s dad’s nurse also provide more than adequate foils for Amy’s one liners. Not to mention Bill Hader who delivers as a nervous, but likable sports doctor who acts as Amy’s first true stable boyfriend.
In interviews Amy Schumer claims to have written the script with the intent to catch Apatow’s eye to direct, which might have led to a different film than one Schumer would produce on her own. Still the duo’s penchant for characters that strike a chord with viewers makes it a more than worthwhile film to meander through. That said, if Trainwreck is Schumer’s first feature film, I can’t wait to see what her second will be.