Trainwreck (2015). A review of Amy Schumer's Film Debut
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Judd Apatow
Written by: Amy Schumer
Produced by: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel.
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Lebron James, John Cena, Brie Larson, Mike Birbiglia, Dave Attell, Colin Quinn.
The first time I saw Amy Schumer was during one of the Comedy Central Roasts. At the time I thought she came across as mean spirited, and I thought her delivery was off; albeit it was no more off than anyone else that was at that roast. Next time I saw her, it was one of the promos for her show, INSIDE AMY SCHUMER. I thought the promos abused sexual humor, which is not to say usage of sexual humor is a bad thing, just that these promos used it poorly. That turned me off to her show for some time. Then, I actually saw the show. It was hit and miss to be certain; but when it worked it was amazing.
Her screenplay for the new Judd Apatow film, TRAINWRECK, is not a perfect piece of work. However, the movie has all of the components of a movie that you watch six or seven times despite your awareness of its shortcomings. It has a certain welcoming vibe to it where you can put it in (*winks*) the dvd player and relax. It’s consistently funny in the first half and gets relatively weaker in the second half, but it never loses its groove.
Amy (Played by Schumer) is in her thirties and is drifting aimlessly, having sex as she pleases due to her dad (Colin Quinn) drilling the notion that monogamy isn’t realistic into her at a very young age. Her sister (Brie Larson) is happily committed to a creepy dude who always wears tacky sweaters (Mike Birbiglia, playing himself). Her boss (Tilda Swinton, hard to recognize) has her profile a sports doctor (Bill Hader). She enters into a relationship with said sports doctor.
The movie’s alliance with the romantic comedy formula is both one of its more charming aspects and one of its weakest. On one end it makes the film easier, more accessible; and on the other it feels like a huge missed opportunity. In the arbitrary third act breakup scene, Hader’s Aaron says that he doesn’t like that Amy has slept with as many guys as she has and is also upset with her over a circumstance that was well out of her control. This would have been an interesting opportunity for Apatow and Schumer to delve into exactly what makes guys behave that way but they opt not to.
TRAINWRECK is carried then, in essence by its jokes and by the charm of Amy Schumer in the lead role. Schumer is invested in the material and it shows. She has a naturalism to her acting that fits well for her script. She also has a certain likability that helps us to understand why this character behaves the way that she does. The jokes don’t always land, one or two don’t even make any sense, but 85-90% of the time this movie had me laughing out loud. This was due to the strong supporting work.
Among one of the best was Colin Quinn as her dad, he’s a fairly funny stand-up act (albeit a weak Weekend Update anchor). This is a role that he belongs in. His timing is terrific and Quinn delivers the many offensive lines this character says in a way that they never sound outwardly malicious, simply like a guy who doesn’t know any better.
Also surprising are the athletes in the film. LeBron James is funny, if forcibly restrained; but the show stealer of the two is definitely John Cena as one of Amy’s hopeless boyfriends. He plays such an egomaniac that at the same time is so sensitive and he does it with a flair I’ve never seen from him prior. Cena has a comic timing that is worth considering for future films.
The best aspect of the movie is definitely what Schumer is doing with her script. Too often we see stories about a man having his big ‘coming-of-age’ moment but we never ask if they’re truly the only ones who have that experience. Schumer offers a (largely) honest and funny look into what it’s like to be somebody like her; somebody who doesn’t necessarily want to be a suburban housewife immediately and fart out kids. TRAINWRECK is by no means a perfect piece of work, the clichés maintain too strong a presence. It is however a fun, funny piece of work buoyed by a talent that I’d love to see more of.