WRITTEN REVIEW – Trainwreck (2015)
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Written by: Amy Schumer
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, John Cena & Colin Quinn
Music: Jon Brion
Release Date: August 14th 2015
Director Judd Apatow is one of the biggest names in Western-Comedy, despite not being the director of many noteworthy comedy films. Yes, ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin‘ is a legitimate comedy classic and ‘Knocked Up‘ is decent, but ‘This Is 40‘ and ‘Funny People‘ aren’t generally well regarded. Apatow has had a lot more success as a comedy producer, being one of the brain-childs of the ‘Anchorman‘ franchise, ‘Bridesmaids‘, ‘Step Brothers‘ and ‘Superbad‘. Apatow’s biggest commercial and critical successes has been contributing to material that he didn’t also write the screenplay for. Enter Amy Schumer, who has written the script for ‘Trainwreck‘ and now Judd Apatow is in the director’s chair marking the first time he’s directing a script that is not his own.
Amy Schumer has made a big splash in the U.S. over the past couple of years with her stand-up comedy routine, her sketch-TV series “Inside Amy Schumer” and other appearances, with ‘Trainwreck‘ being her first stab at Hollywood success. While ‘Trainwreck‘ did well in the U.S., Amy Schumer is practically an unknown in the U.K meaning the film has an uphill battle with audiences. Can Schumer’s unique brand of humour and un-established personality connect with a U.K. audience or is this strictly for the already converted?
Amy (Schumer) is a single woman working at a gossip-ladened men’s magazine as a writer. Due to terrible childhood advice from her cheating father (Quinn) she’s been taught that “Monogamy isn’t realistic” so she sleeps around despite dating personal trainer Steven (Cena). She also frequently gets drunk and does weed in her spare time. At work, she’s given an assignment from her boss to write about sports doctor/surgeon, Aaron (Hader). Over the course of writing the article, Amy starts to fall in love with the polite, mild-mannered Aaron but will her reckless lifestyle prevent her from finding happiness or is she too much of a trainwreck? (GEDDIT!?)
While Judd Apatow did not write this film, you can sense his fingerprints all over it as it falls into the type of material he’s directed in the past. Comedy that ranges from character-driven to complete gross-out, lots of sentimental scenes that try to tug on the heart-strings, over-extended conversation scenes and it’s around 30 minutes too long.
But as for the writing, ‘Trainwreck‘ succeeds as a strong comedy (Well, it succeeds with me. Comedy is an incredibly subjective genre) but mainly because it sticks ridgedly to the romantic-comedy formula so that the characters can be put front-and-centre. The plot is relatively simple but is played-out over extended conversation sequences where the dialogue is allowed to shine and the legitimate actor-chemistry is put on full display. Judd Apatow is well-known for giving his actors a lot of freedom but with a Amy Schumer script it’s hard to tell what is improvised and what is scripted, though not in a distracting way.
Extended dialogue sequences between Amy Schumer and John Cena are great with John Cena almost walking away with the entire movie as he’s hysterically funny here. Whether it’s him conflating “dirty talk” with motivational sports slogans, or him getting angry at audience members in a movie theatre, John Cena is a natural fit for this type of comedy and the movie gets a lot of mileage out of him, which makes it all the more noticeable when he disappears from the film around 30 minutes in and is never mentioned or seen again. Thankfully, another sports personality is there to pick up the slack with Basketball star LeBron James getting a supporting role as himself acting as a friend to Bill Hader’s Aaron charater. LeBron nails the deadpan humour as some of the film’s high-points in the second and third act revolve around him.
Oh, and Tilda Swinton is utterly unrecognisable as Amy’s boss at the magazine she works at and she’s incredibly funny. If she got more screen-time, I’d be willing to throw out some Robert Downey Jr. ‘Tropic Thunder‘ comparisons. That’s how good she is.
As for the main characters, Amy Schumer is a strong lead actor and is a good enough performer to lead a movie and to carry a scene, both comedically and dramatically. ‘Trainwreck‘ is a surprisingly emotional movie, particularly towards the end of the second act when the story-arc revolving around her father starts to escalate. Amy Schumer wrote the script and the main character is actually called Amy so you get the sense that this a story close to her heart and in the performance that does come across. Bill Hader is also a lot of fun as a down-to-earth contrast to Amy’s character with lots of moments to shine through physical comedy. The two have great chemistry together in terms of romance, but the conflict in ‘Trainwreck‘ comes from whether or not Amy’s own self-loathing will get in the way of her taking a real opportunity at happiness.
There’s been quite a bit of criticism levelled at this movie saying that it’s actually sexist towards women as every man in the movie is sensible and well-adjusted while every woman is insane or irresponsible. First of all, 90% of the time in film and other forms of media, it’s the other way around (a.k.a. accurate). ONE TIME where this dynamic is shifted is not “sexism”. And secondly, not every woman is an insane human being and not every guy is a perfect dreamboat. Amy’s sister, Kim, played by Brie Larson, is a sensible, well-adjusted person and her husband Tom, played by Mike Birbiglia, is nice but he’s way too formal and incredibly awkward. Not to mention Amy’s father who has a memorable personality, is FAR from a good person.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; calling something “sexist” when it doesn’t even fit the minimum requirements for being sexist actually HURTS the cause for better female representation in media because you wind up diluting the term and when ACTUAL sexism shows up people will be inclined to take it less seriously. Also, WATCH THE MOVIE before levelling these criticisms.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah,
While it doesn’t even resemble a “sexist” interpretation of a male and female relationship, ‘Trainwreck‘ does paint Aaron as impossibly patient and the film does such an effective job at setting up Amy as a waste of time with very few redeeming qualities that you do begin to question why he’s being so understanding. There isn’t even a moment of doubt for Aaron in the movie. He’s just a swell guy. When the obligatory, not at all predictable(!) third-act break-up occurs, it’s not because Aaron finally loses it, it’s because Amy hi-jacks the relationship and forces the break-up. As fun as Bill Hader is as Aaron, the character is romantically one-dimensional.
The plot is also very predictable with contrived conflicts to meet the minimum requirements for a boiler-plate romantic comedy. ‘Trainwreck‘ does nothing new with this formula or structure meaning that it’s the jokes that have to carry all of the engagement. While most of the jokes do land, the movie starts to run out of steam towards the end with a third act that goes on FOREVER. Ezra Miller (The Flash in the upcoming DC Cinematic Universe) has a small role as an intern and it’s a nothing-role that should have wound-up on the cutting room floor. His big third act moment was a laugh-free scene and goes on for way too long.
‘Trainwreck‘ is a 124 minute film, but with a third act that just kept going and going and going and going and for some reason Matthew Broderick, Chris Evert and Marv Albert have long-winded cameos and going and going ‘Trainwreck‘ feels like a 150 minute movie. The third act completely kills the momentum the film had going for it and the movie just limps to the credits under the weight of its extraneous scenes and set-pieces.
Judd Apatow clearly has a big personal phone-book as many sports personalities and random actors get cameo appearances, including the aforementioned Matthew Broderick, but also Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei and others. These cameos are some of the highlights of the film, but when they keep coming in the third act, it just adds more weight to a story that really should have been wrapping up by that point. The most emotional moment of the movie comes at the end of the 2nd act when it really should have occurred around halfway through the third act. Because of its placement, the movie ends up peaking way too early.
In terms of production values, it’s typical romantic-comedy fare. There are no interesting directorial choices or camera-shots as the movie mostly consists of characters sitting down and talking, or laying on top of each other and talking or talking over the phone. It’s well done, but it’s nothing special. Same goes for the music by Jon Brion. It’s typical for the genre and nothing special. It’s adequate.
‘Trainwreck‘ is a solid debut for Amy Schumer and a decent outing for director Judd Apatow, though it does practically nothing with the romantic-comedy genre other than throw in more celebrity cameos than usual. There’s clearly a lot of Amy Schumer’s personal experiences in the script, but despite her brilliant chemistry with an exceptional cast, including a lot of surprises such as John Cena, Tilda Swinton and LeBron James, it goes on for way too long with a third act that’s extended to almost absurd degrees. If you cut out around 70% of the third act of ‘Trainwreck‘, I’d give this movie an entire extra star with the final score. While Amy Schumer is clearly a talent to watch, it’s clear that next time she’s in need of a script-editor with the guts to tell her that sometimes subtraction is the best approach.
I give ‘Trainwreck‘ 3 stars out of 5.
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Posted In: 2015 Reviews Current Reviews Reviews
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Posted: 28th Aug 15