I recommend this movie: Trainwreck
Woe be to films with an adjective for their titles, because cheap internet critics like myself will undoubtedly be forced to use them in some punny, hopelessly witty manner in their critiques. Trainwreck is no such thing, but it is basically a ride along the Northeast corridor of Amtrak: it lasts too long and comes awfully close to coming off the trials numerous times.
When we first meet Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer, who also wrote the film), she’s about to get down to business with some random guy she picked up somewhere. As the poor sap removes his boxers, he’s treated to a comical and very Apatowian-riff on the size of his penis from an amused Amy. After some blatant manipulations for oral sex, followed by Amy ‘passing out’ we get the very first thought in her head: ‘Don’t judge me, fuckers.’
Common wisdom states that when anyone says those words, we really need to judge them. Trainwreck wants it both ways; it wants Amy to judge away at any and everyone, and it wants to sit back and say ‘just playing’ when finally called out on this terrible behavior. Similarly, the film wants to shock and awe of Schumer’s brilliant Comedy Central show, but the sugary sweetness of your standard rom-com. Like that shark who was so heroically fended off by that surfer: sure, it had teeth, but it failed to use them. Trainwreck starts as a great look into the debilitating spiral of an existence – a perhaps lighter version of the wonderful Young Adult – but peering over the abyss, decided it didn’t like what it saw and pulled back to safer territory.
Perhaps there is a more vicious and tonally appropriate version of the film out there. Like many Apatow productions, this is a movie assembled in the editing room. Scenes linger, and the film’s pace barrels into a wall whenever somebody makes a joke, and then makes the same joke and then a slight variation on the two. The jokes, however, are relatively funny and told by funny enough and charming enough people for them to land on a semi-regular basis. So people looking for a foul-mouthed female to talk about dick for over two hours – yes, the film is that long – are in luck.
Schumer herself is great in the role, which is basically how I imagine she is in real life – only more so.
Her comedy chops are never in question, and she even displays a decent range of emotions, though she never has got so deep or dark to really bring out the best – and worst – in the character. Trainwreck is entirely dependent on switching the stereotypical roles in a rom-com, and that is its strength and weakness. I love Trainwreck because it allows Schumer to be a complete and utter fuck-up, but I don’t care for Trainwreck because it rights her wrongs in the most standard, predictable way possible. Women, in films in general and romantic comedies in particular, are not allowed to have any flaws; their biggest flaw is that perhaps they are too put together. Career, family, friends, but gosh darn it, they just can’t keep a man. Ugh. Whatever is a girl to do, right? Schumer plays vastly against type, essentially playing the boorish, drinking lothario with a secret sensitive side who just needs a woman to help him express his innermost feelings.
Enter Bill Hader as Aaron, a sports doctor who has his shit on lockdown and simply can’t deny the feelings he has for this hot mess of a woman. Oh! If only she would get her act together, then everything can end in a beautiful, cliche moment of public embarrassment and romance! Hader is a great straight-man; while possessed of a rubbery face, he’s surprisingly normal and mellow and understands that this is Amy’s time to be outlandish. He’ll get his laughs in almost as an afterthought, which is almost always hit.
Yet nothing else comes of this gender reversal. All Apatow does is graft different genitalia onto the main character and say ‘Look! Girls can be screwed up, too! And boys can be totally reasonable and adult-like! See? Isn’t that progressive and stuff?’ Admittedly, for Hollywood, it may well be.
As with many an Apatow production, he populates it with charming and funny cameo characters. Tim Meadows from SNL shows up randomly, Councilman Jam from Parks and Rec, Randall Park and even a very wooden Matthew Broderick. Tilda Swinton provides sufficiently ‘alpha-female’ humor as Amy’s boss, playing a very cold – and long-haired – woman with a caustic tongue. She’s hilarious at it. But the MVP in this movie is Basketball’s MVP: Lebron James, who plays best friends with Aaron. Like Jason Statham in this year’s Spy, James is a charismatic performer who isn’t necessarily ‘funny’, but he understands humor and what he needs to do to make a joke land. Watching him and Aaron, you kind of want to see their adventures together in the more traditional rom-com, with Aaron as the star. It might not be dark and edgy, but it would absolutely put a smile on your face.
Even Amar’e Stoudemire sinks his few shots of acting. Lord knows he’s not doing it on the court, amirite?
Trainwreck stumbles like a walk of shame after the big blow-up scene between our two attractive leads. Its creators feel at war with themselves; Schumer’s edgy humor doesn’t always mesh well with Apatow’s improvy-but-ultimately-uplifting eye for human dramedy. Trainwreck is a damn funny movie and you’ll be giggling and gawking; so for that, it’s a ticket worth buying. Don’t worry, though, this one will get you to where you know it’s going, with hardly a bump in the tracks.