Review by Erick Barrientos
Since Freaks and Geeks, it seems Judd Apatow has always had a knack for getting comedic actors to really show their chops on screen. The 40-Year-Old Virgin further proved this ability while moving his work onto the big screen. Three years after his last film, This Is 40, Judd Apatow is back at the helm, directing Trainwreck. This film is Amy Schumer's (Inside Amy Schumer, Last Comic Standing) first foray into writing and starring in a feature film. Though there are many varying opinions on her comedy and style, she has definitely come into her own in recent years, with her Comedy Central sketch show Inside Amy Schumer really allowing her to show the world she's a funny woman, though crude at times. Now, she tackles the big screen with Trainwreck.
After beginning with a touching father-daughters flashback moment, in which two young girls learn that "monogamy isn't realistic", the film jumps to the present and we begin following one of those young girls, Amy (Amy Schumer). Amy is now a thirty-something female living in New York and writing for Snuff magazine, a Cosmopolitan-esque magazine that somehow manages to ramp up the raunchiness of their content. Though successful in her career, Amy's love life is made up entirely of one-night stands and commitment-less flings, as her upbringing taught her that "monogamy isn't realistic," leading her to a fear of commitment, or anything that might actually be good for her and make her happy. It's when she ends up assigned to interview and write an article on sports medicine surgeon, Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), that they end up out for dinner and spending the night together, which begins to turn into something more. This frightens Amy because Aaron is a great, normal guy who's totally into her; there has to be something wrong with him. So we watch Amy figure out whether or not she can get over her fears for someone who might actually be great for her.
As stated earlier, Judd Apatow has a knack for getting comedians to work well together on screen, and this film is chock full of them. Amy Schumer and Bill Hader star side-by-side, while Colin Quinn (Gordon), Mike Birbiglia (Tom), Jon Glaser (Schultz), Vanessa Bayer (Nikki) and Dave Attell (Noam) add to the comedian cast, with a couple of others appearing in a few scenes. Rounding out the cast are Tilda Swinton (Dianna), Brie Larson (Kim), John Cena (Steven) and LeBron James (himself). This is a star-studded cast and it works to the film's advantage. Each character in the film is very unique and we get great performances, even from those you would least expect, like Cena and LeBron. Though he is playing a slightly-fictionalized version of himself, LeBron still really stands out in this film as Aaron's best friend. Many of his scenes involve jokes at his expense, and he seems like he was more than a great sport about it (no pun intended). Though it really is Schumer and Hader who shine in this film. Their on-screen chemistry is great and I don't see who else could have played Aaron but Hader.
Though you would expect far raunchier comedy from someone like Amy Schumer, the film is actually a lot tamer in that aspect. Don't get me wrong, there are a ton of sex jokes, but they're not the same sort of adolescent, American Pie dick and fart jokes you expect from a lot of these comedy films. They're very straightforward and come from a place of truth and relevance, which is present throughout a lot of humor in the film. Amy Schumer really dives into the real world with a lot of her jokes. The film also takes risks with some of the comedic material, sometimes taking moments in the film to dark comedic places that will have you groaning while you laugh. The sort of "I feel bad for laughing" kind of humor that I, personally, am a huge fan of. But these jokes do not feel like they are in the film for shock value or the sake of just being in the film; most of them are timed very well, contextual, and believable.
Though I cannot say I am a big sports fan myself, those who are sports fans will be rewarded by little things when watching this film. With Aaron being in sports medicine, we get a few cameos from some big athletes and they work well in the film. Speaking of cameos, there are also a few by some other actors that were unexpected and very pleasant, funny moments.
Though the film is generally funny and very entertaining throughout, the story very much lacks any sort of comfortable flow or structure. There is noticeable progression in Amy and Aaron's relationship, but it seemed like structure and pacing was sacrificed in favor of moving the film's timeline along. Early in the film, when Amy is assigned the article, she meets Aaron and begins interviewing him. Shortly after, they begin dating. Shortly after that, six weeks have apparently passed and for some reason Amy is still working on the article. There are other aspects of the film that are aided by this accelerated timeline, but the pacing suffers because of it. Things seemed jumbled and it felt very apparent watching the film. With a runtime of 124 minutes, which is long for a comedy, there was definitely room for some trimming and fine tuning.
Amy's joke-heavy scenes in the first 20 to 30 minutes or so of the film really felt like her just performing stand-up in character. While it was funny, it felt a bit excessive in the context of the film. It's really after Hader's character is introduced that we start to get more of a balance.
While you got to get a feel for each character, the relationship between Amy and some of the characters is lacking. Her boss, Dianna (Tilda Swinton) exists essentially to make her life harder. And while Swinton's acting was just fine, I wasn't very fond of her character. There was no balance to her. John Cena's character Steven, though performed well and funny, seemed to only be a vehicle for gay jokes aimed at his obviously closeted gay character. It got a bit tiring after a while.
When I first found out about Amy Schumer a few years ago, I wasn't really a fan of her comedy. But as I stated before, she's really come into her own and has written a solid comedy. Though I'd like to give a lot of credit to Judd Apatow, Bill Hader and the rest of the supporting cast for really bringing this film together. I feel those things are what really elevated Schumer's script. So, regardless of your feelings towards Amy Schumer's comedy, and especially if you're a fan of Judd Apatow or Bill Hader, Trainwreck is definitely worth a couple hours of your time.
All images courtesy of http://www.trainwreckmovie.com/ and Universal Pictures