In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
It would appear that we’ve reached a point where audiences collectively roll our eyes at a romantic comedy, asserting that films of the genre, by nature, are hokey and false, representing either an overly complex or overly simplistic view of what it means to fall in love. Nowadays, the only way to even touch the genre is through parody or subversion, yet somehow Apatow’s latest succeeds at being a grand rom-com without a knowing wink. Written by Amy Schumer, directed by Judd Apatow, and starring a veritable who’s who of comedians and sports personalities, Trainwreck manages to be equally hilarious and touching, so much so that as it happily skips through its formulaic structure toward its expected yet ridiculously impossible ending, there’s no time to ponder how strictly it follows the rom-com template.
As a child, Amy Townsend (Schumer) is advised by her father (a sublimely hilarious Colin Quinn) that monogamy does not make sense, and one should focus solely on their own desires. This advice resonates with Amy, but not so much with her little sister, Kim (Brie Larson). As an adult, Amy heeds her father’s advice and lives the life of a serial dater. She likes to drink, smoke weed, and have sex with as many people as she can, but she never, ever sleeps over. Ever. She outwardly rejects the notion of settling down, and openly mocks her sister for doing so. During her days she works for S’Nuff magazine, a sort of Maxim/Cosmo riff, where she is assigned to do a story on a sports doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader), to whom many superstar athletes go for treatment. As these things go, she and Aaron hit it off, and you can easily guess the rest from here.
The formulaic nature of the plot is hardly a problem though, and even when we know exactly what’s going to happen in a broad sense, the film is so packed with comedic surprises and quick wit that a more nuanced plot would actually be a hindrance. Also to be noted are the dramatic scenes, of which there are more than would be expected. There are even a few tearjerker moments tossed in, which are not only effective in tugging the audience’s heartstrings, but add an honesty to the proceedings that many rom-coms lack.
The script, by Schumer herself, is a perfect showcase for the comic’s myriad talents, and even though she has claimed that she’s really only playing herself, her work here both on and off the page is impressive. Schumer balances the humor and the drama in such a way that the jokes never become exhausting, and the sadder moments are always punctuated with comic relief. Schumer especially shines when she shares the screen with Brie Larson. They feel as if they are actually sisters; as if they’ve known each other their whole lives.
As Apatow films go, this one feels much less self indulgent (although when the cameo train reaches its nadir, it becomes irritating), and is thankfully not as long as This is 40. It is still a bit too long (Annie Hall was 90 minutes! 90 minutes, people!), but it never drags. It’s also so filled with gags that it merits re-watching just to catch the bits which were drowned out by laughter. And I’m very, very happy to report that Apatow’s family does not have an entire act relegated to them. In fact, the Apatow brood doesn’t even make an appearance.
I really thought (hoped, even) that the bulk of this review would be spent dumping on Lebron James, but I cannot bring myself to do it. The NBA star is charming, funny, and even charismatic at points (considering), but the runaway performance goes to John Cena. His character is completely off the wall, and Cena is game in a big way.
Trainwreck is a grand comedy filled with laughter and fun. Hopefully this is a great sign for Amy Schumer’s future. If she can continue to make comedy on her own terms, she’s going to be around for a long time. A star is born.
Trainwreck opens today in Philly area theaters.