Is It Love, Or Just A Trainwreck?
The films of Judd Apatow always gather a comic ensemble around their stars. In his film Trainwreck, Amy Schumer plays Amy Townsend, a thirty-something writer for a New York magazine which specializes in any sort of trends that people Amy's age follow. Her professional and personal lives, though, are a bit of a mess, even though her work has her in line for a promotion. Her father, Gordon (Colin Quinn), has to go to an assisted living facility as his MS grows worse. She's at odds with her sister Kim (Brie Larson) over Gordon's personal effects and choice of facility. Further, Amy can scarcely stand Kim's husband Tom (Mike Birbiglia) and stepson Allistaer (Evan Brinkman). Amy doesn't keep boyfriends because she still wants to party and play the field. Her latest magazine assignment involves interviewing prominent sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), even though she is clueless and uninterested in sports.
She and Aaron meet to coordinate their schedules, and starts by visiting his sports facility, where he shows his knowledge of body mechanics. He even invites her to watch an operation. Both of these experiences make Amy uncomfortable in different ways. After one of these events, Aaron suggests getting dinner, where they start to bond. When he starts to compliment Amy on her smarts and her sense of humor, they extend their time together until the next morning. When Aaron calls later, Amy and her co-worker Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) get upset. When they get back to the interview, Aaron introduces Amy to LeBron James, who is happy to meet Amy, and is even happier for his physician friend. While Amy has thoughts of keeping things professional going forward, Aaron convinces her to start dating him. They get to know about each other's families, and she starts to round out the piece for her editor, Dianna (Tilda Swinton). Things take another turn when Gordon dies, which comes shortly after Kim announces she's pregnant. Amy's old habits start to show themselves at the worst times, including during a luncheon honoring Aaron, and a party where Amy gets too uninhibited with magazine intern Donald (Ezra Miller). These issues also affect Aaron as he prepares to operate on Amar'e Stoudemire.
Apatow's films may be marketed as comedies, but each successive one seems to contain more elements of drama than its predecessor. Funny People, for example. dealt with a successful comedian dealing with cancer while hiring and befriending a young comic as an assistant. This Is 40, which followed, dealt with a business couple dealing with business problems and a struggling parent. Trainwreck not only deals with a physically struggling parent, but Amy must learn to build a future instead of clinging to a present where her status quo has grown old and counterproductive. The movie still has plenty of laughs as Amy deals with a self-centered boss and co-workers, an abrasive father, a direct but well-meaning little sister, and a doctor who might be the one if Amy lets him. Schumer also wrote this script, which does a nice job of capturing the ups and downs of a working woman, while Apatow manages to keep the story balanced in favor of comedy. The movie is a bit uneven at times, but Apatow creates a good portrait of a woman at a crossroads.
As an actress, Schumer is good in this, her first starring role. Amy wants a lot, but doesn't see how her wants affect others. When Amy slips away from a movie to smoke a joint, she hurts the feelings of her then boyfriend, Steven (John Cena). The argument that ensues leads to the end of them. Gordon had once told Amy and Kim monogamy wasn't realistic, yet Kim dealt with building a life with Tom and Allister, followed by preparing for starting a family with Tom. Amy may tell Aaron her favorite team is the Orlando Blooms, but she slowly begins to see how his love of sports and passion for medicine help in his relationship with his pro athlete patients. LeBron especially likes the development of Amy and Aaron as a couple, even of her ways give both of them anxiety. Hader is just as good as Aaron, who shows all sorts of generosity to Amy, even when Amy doesn't behave in the same way. Amy, though, doesn't experience that kind of generosity at the magazine office. Aaron knows Amy has her complications, but he finds a kinship that he hasn't felt for awhile.
The movie has plenty of solid supporting performances. Larson has the straight role as Kim, the one adult in Amy's life who insists on being an adult, but always remembers that Amy and Gordon are family. Quinn delivers laughs as Gordon, a dad who's not ashamed to let people know how he feels. Swinton is also funny as Dianna, the editor who lets her staff know who's the boss as she makes assignments and loves to see how high Amy will jump for a promotion. In addition to pro wrestler Cena (who's comically and righteously sensitive as Steven) and NBA players James and Stoudemire, other sports figures who have cameos include Tony Romo, Chris Evert, and Marv Albert. Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei appear as an unlikely couple in The Dogwalker, the movie Amy and Steven see on their last date. In addition to Bayer and Miller, Randall Park and Jon Glaser have good bits as Amy's disgruntled fellow writers. Fans of the 1980s medical drama St. Elsewhere might recognize 100-year-old Norman Lloyd as one of Gordon's fellow assisted living residents who gives Gordon a hard time about being a Mets fan.
Trainwreck tells the story of a writer who vacillates about the goals in her life. Amy Townsend has reasons to love her father, yet she could potentially follow his self-destructive ways. She loves her sister and her sister's family, yet she keeps them at a distance. She loves her writing, but she wants to more than report trends. She comes to love Aaron, yet she has a hard time letting their affection change both of them. Amy Townsend is a teenage rebel who still carries that spirit of rebellion long after most others went forward with their lives. It is time for Amy to make something more with the good in her life. First, she has to get out of her own way and appreciate the good elements that have come her way.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Trainwreck three stars. A comedy that does not derail.