Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, LeBron James, Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton, Colin Quinn, Mike Birbiglia, John Cena, Evan Brinkman, Ezra Miller, Randall Park, Jon Glaser, Dave Attell, Norman Lloyd
MPAA Rating: (for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use)
Running Time: 2:05
Release Date: 7/17/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | July 17, 2015
It wouldn't exactly be fair to call Amy Schumer, who has been performing stand-up comedy for about a decade and has her own cable sketch-comedy show, a new talent. With that proviso stated, Trainwreck announces a most promising new talent. Schumer wrote the film's screenplay—her first feature—and stars as the main character—her first leading role. When the work is so different from what the person has previously done, surely we can make an exception to the rules of when we're allowed to call someone a "new talent." The screenplay is a subtly subversive take on the typical romantic comedy, and the performance is something even more special. That sort of one-two punch is enough for me to fudge the rules a bit.
Schumer plays Amy, and since she did write the screenplay, the combination will surely lead some folks to wonder and/or opine just how much the character and the story are a form of autobiographical testimony or confessional. Let's leave that to the armchair psychologists and the celebrity-gossipmongers, and instead, let's just call the character what she is within the context of the film and, more importantly, the genre it's poking and twisting.
Amy is essentially the all-fun-and-games guy in the movie about how that character settles down when he finds the right woman. There's a societal double standard that a man can get away with excessive partying and womanizing because he's a guy, but if a woman does anything of that sort, people determine that she's deserving of a whole bunch of off-color names and insults.
Amy can drink anyone under the table. She beds any man who's willing to go for it. She has no interest in romantic commitment. The film dares us to perceive her as any of those disparaging words. She has her reasons, but even if she didn't, who are we to judge, anyway?
The film overtly toys with the typical gender roles of the romantic comedy. We get famous athletes—tall and hulking specimens of masculinity—being open and honest about their feelings. The men of the film want romantic happiness above all else, and one of the friends of the male romantic interest becomes suspicious of Amy's intentions towards his buddy.
These are typically the duties and characterizations of the women in movies like this, but here, we get professional wrestler John Cena playing Amy's semi-boyfriend. He explains how all his friends at the gym talk about how he's not getting the emotional reciprocation he needs to be happy. He also no idea what "dirty talk" is. The men here are endearingly silly creatures.
It's Amy who gets to have all the fun without the consequences. Even her "walk of shame" is more of the awkward stumble of someone trying to maneuver down a bumpy sidewalk in high heels. Once she gets her feet firmly planted on the Staten Island Ferry to return home after a one-night stand, she extends her arms in the universal gesture of someone who has the freedom of not caring what anyone thinks about her.
This is Amy, and Schumer, as an actress and a screenwriter, doesn't care if we "like" this character or not. Because of that, we really do.
As is the custom of the genre, Amy finds a man who makes her rethink her ways. He's Aaron (Bill Hader), a surgeon to famous athletes whom Amy, a writer for a men's magazine, has been assigned to interview for an upcoming article. After a night of drinking, she goes to his apartment, and they have sex. Aaron calls her the next day, which leads Amy to believe he might be expecting too much from her. She's right, of course. He hasn't had a relationship in years, and his buddy LeBron James encourages him to get back on the horse (The film's reliance on such gimmicky celebrity appearances, which feel more in tune with director Judd Apatow's sensibilities, is a bit beneath the rest of the film, although those famous folks—especially Cena and James—are quite funny in their roles).
Amy and Aaron do start dating (Amy narrates a montage of their relationship, hoping that it'll end horrifically). Schumer gives us some back story as to Amy's fear of commitment, primarily involving the influence of her father (Colin Quinn). In the film's prologue, he explains how monogamy is impossible by telling his daughters that they wouldn't like it if they could only play with one doll for the rest of their lives ("Sometimes you want to play with the cocktail waitress doll").
This might seem like an easy explanation for Amy's personality, but as written and performed by Schumer, the character isn't as simple as she might seem from that history. Her younger sister Kim (Brie Larson), who heard the same things from their father, is happily married to Tom (Mike Birbiglia) and loves her stepson (Evan Brinkman) as she would her own child, despite her father's insistence that the kid isn't "really" hers.
Amy's fear is as much of rejection as it is of commitment. She loves her father and has taken his philosophy about love to heart, but she also knows that his influence has been a poisonous one. Schumer's performance is a surprisingly astute examination of these stacked fears and internal conflicts, and it's also a fine balancing act that allows us to laugh with the character while sympathizing with her, too.
The film almost inevitably loses momentum as it falls into a familiar pattern, but to Schumer's credit, every complication arises from the characters' vulnerabilities and insecurities. It doesn't fall back on cheap, external forces to raise conflict. In that regard alone, Trainwreck is smarter than the majority of romantic comedies we get. With a clever play on traditional gender roles and Schumer's skillful performance, the film does more than a bit above and beyond what we might expect.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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