Trainwreck - Review
If you have ever taken the time to see comedienne and actress Any Schumer’s half hour situation comedy on the Comedy Channel called “Inside Amy Schumer”, the first thing that jumps out about her is she is completely and utterly fearless in making either herself, the situation and others the focal point of a no holds barred joke; sometimes even managing to take a biting jab at all three simultaneously in that uniquely quick witty way she has about her. And along with an ever increasing national profile from her successful stand up shows, as well as the many appearances on those “star making” late night TV shows, it was only a matter time before some “studio executive head” could see her talent as something easily transferable and marketable to a much broader national audience by starring her in a featured role on the big movie screen. And why not, I mean the fact is it’s very easy to see that Amy Schumer is very talented and is also very original in her comic perceptions about modern life, both from a observational point of view (i.e. George Carlin) and as well as from the perspective of a self-assured, very confident and very millennially liberated woman who is in total charge of her own destiny, mind, spirit, body and soul. Bottom line, she’s the hot comic right now.
On a recent episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s successful on line show “Comediennes in Cars Getting Coffee” (you should see, it’s very funny) Amy Schumer responded jokingly to a question Jerry asked her about dating in which she responded, “Yeah I wonder what it’s like is to date me?” Well, fictional or not, you can get a bit of answer to Jerry’s question in Schumer’s first starring movie role that she co-wrote and was directed and co-written by Hollywood’s go to “de-jure” comic director these day and former stand up himself, Judd Apatow in the delightfully funny “Trainwreck”.
The movie’s plot starts out with Amy getting an early life lesson about relationships as a child from her father who is laying down the law to her and her sister that “monogamy doesn’t work”. With this facts of life moment in tow we are quickly swooped away to an adult Amy somewhat resolute by that advice in both her professional and personal life as a writer at a “Variety”-ish magazine company who is headed by a strange and slightly unorthodox eccentric editor played by the always versatile Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton.
One day her editor gives Amy an assignment to profile a local NY surgeon named Aaron Conner (Bill Hader) who has a rich clientele of famous athletes with the story delving into his medical career and mostly what’s it like to work on such high price and high profile “knees” and “ligaments”. Problem is Amy doesn’t know a thing about sports and also she could almost care less; so she‘s just going to wing it.
We also see early on when Amy is not working she sleeps around a lot because again as told by her father “monogamy doesn’t work” and with that, Amy’s philosophical focus on life is laid out in full. Whether it’s with her relationships at work, the relationship with her sister and her family or her own personal life relationships, she practices Daddy’s advice to the tee by always putting it to confident ephemeral use, especially when it comes to sex “monogamy doesn’t work”. And whether it’s a new boyfriend or some fly by sexual encounter again “monogamy still doesn’t work”. That is the case until she interviews the steadfast “good” Doctor Connor.
PROS: There are some drop down to your knees very funny moments in the film, but what surprised me greatly was as much as this is film is advertised and marketed as a comedy, it’s more of a sweet drama that has real life situations that just naturally turned very funny. And while some of these scenes were structurally set up to be pushed comedically outside the norm of reality, they were still very funny nonetheless. But even with plenty laughs to go around for almost two hours, “Trainwreck” is going for something grander and loftier in its goal and that is it wants to tell a sweet romantic more dramatic tale that just so happens along its way has some laughs in it.
CONS: While it didn’t bother me, for those that it does, there are some jokes that are crude and vulgar with its R rating, but nevertheless still funny. In addition there was a couple of scenes that seem somewhat clunky and added marginally to the story. Some of those involved NBA all-star LeBron James with Bill Hader which did have its moment of genuine humor as James is basically playing the romantic advisory to his friend Dr. Connor. James puts a good heartfelt effort to his screen time, but to no fault of his own his scenes (story wise) felt kind of misplaced. I applaud Lebron’s acting skills as he was actually pretty good though essentially playing himself. Still I felt James’s character’s role seemed more as a throw in to the film to make it more marketable to a wider audience rather than having James actually adding something to the film’s story essential or meaningful to the plot. They could have done more with him as he clearly could have carried his own weight.
Finally there were two scenes that seem to range from odd to silly. One involving NBA announcer Marv Albert, Chris Evert, Matthew Broderick and Lebron that I felt was completely stupid and needless. The other scene was a cheer leading routine that for me while cute could have been written differently or better or just simply cut out altogether which would of made the natural continuation to the films conclusion more connected to the film overall.
CONCLUSION: “Trainwreck” kind of touches on the old adage “the sins of the father are passed on to the son”, only in this case it is with a girl named Amy which in the form of fatherly advice was misguided and hurtful. A larger point of the film is its paradigm shift on the way we will probably be seeing future stories of romantic tales as part of our entertainment. The fact is 30 years, ago this same movie’s plot would have had the sexual promiscuous lead, with the same foibles and mishaps as the man, while the “I want to settle down” loving well-adjusted co-star good doctor surgeon in the gender form of a woman.
Role reversals is basically what “Trainwreck” is working with at its core, but more importantly the larger story examines how we are just changing in the way we engage in intimacy as a whole as we parallel try to promote human and gender equality. The fact is we are impatient for most things now and are constantly trying to find even faster quicker ways to interact with one another in less and less spans of time even to the point of 140 characters (Tweeter) or less. Trainwreck is just a new modern narrative of how we interact differently in matters of love than our parents when they were growing up. Is that good? Is that bad? Is it neither? I don’t know. Is it funnier? Probably yes.
Overall, “Trainswreck” is fun to watch as it takes a smart, somewhat sly moral approach to discussing current gender sexuality through a balanced examination via an old romantic story formula told many times before. But in Director Apatow case he manages to push this old format with just enough of the right key board strokes to keep it fresh and unpredictable. And while the film is an unapologetic effort of how people today (especially in regards to sex) are just honest with each other, even sometimes brutally so, there are other times we are brutally honest and hilariously so.
Schumer and Hader worked well together as the love interest. Also there are some great lines of humor performed by a homeless man on a street corner that I wished they had included more of him in the film. But the real strength of this film is Schumer who is sharp, sensitive and even effectively dramatic in ways that surprised me. She is a woman in her own time with all the fantasy doting “Stepford wife” illusions completely stripped away. And while Trainswreck is far from great, Schumer carried this film from beginning to end and would not surprise me if she gets an Oscar Nomination for Best Actress next year.
“Trainwreck”, as a film is definitely worth your money and your time even though I feel it is far more somber than you may think going it. You won’t be short changed on the comic meter, but you will probably remember less the various clever biting edgy jokes and more the life lessons it tries to teach.
3 – 1/2 Stars