D: Judd Apatow. DP: Jody Lee Lipps. W: Amy Schumer. Starring: Amy Schumer/Bill Hader/Colin Quinn/Brie Larson/Tilda Swinton/Vanessa Bayer/LeBron James/Mike Birbiglia/Evan Brinkman/Randall Parl/Ezra Miller/Jon Glaser.
If you don’t know who Amy Schumer is at this point you might need to move to a new rock to live under. Whether or not you have seen her three years running comedy central show or any of her stand up specials, you will at least have seen her on a magazine cover or sadly express her condolences to the families of the two women killed in Lafayette, LA in a screening of this film. I do not want to dwell on the shooting as it’s painful being from Louisiana myself, safe to say she handled it with aplomb.
Regardless the Schumer penned first time acting film Trainwreck is the sort of modernistic romantic comedy you can enjoy. Rather than soapy clean rom coms like Something Borrowed or struggling adult ones like How Do You Know, Trainwreck barrels ahead with a lead who is messy and complex. The film follows Schumer as Amy in a period of her life where her ill father (Colin Quinn) is moved into a nursing home by her and her sister Kim (Brie Larson). At different places in their life with Kim married and stepmother, Amy struggles to deal with her father and a job at a men’s magazine where she is not writing work she’s really proud of. On an assignment to interview successful sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) she grabs drinks with him and sleeps with him and he actually calls her again.
Schumer has publicly said she did not write the film for her to star rather for Judd Apatow to direct. This is in fact his first directorial effort on a script he did not write himself. But what Schumer is able to do is balance a touching journey with her ill father and different sister with practical 30-something trails of dating and workplace slumps. Hitting a lot of typical romantic comedy beats Schumer in voiceover makes fun of them yet uses them to expose her character’s decision to not have expectations or work through much in relationships. Rather than say Mindy Kaling’s interpretation of rom coms, here they are something to work against.
Trainwreck is similar in tone to Bridesmaids in its open humor about sex, with Schumer’s own twist on the female perspective. Schumer does well enough though her performance is derivative of her standup and her own persona. Yet she has excellent chemistry with SNL veteran Hader who is well cast here. The couple’s connection seems authentic and despite the film’s adherence to some rom com rules they seem to connect realistically. Quinn is touching as Amy’s father, but the steal away is probably Tilda Swinton as Amy’s magazine boss whose tight one liners are all the better coming from Swinton. Brie Larson is still one of my favorite young actresses out there, just see Short Term 12, just do it now.
Ultimately, Trainwreck packs most of its laughs in the first two acts and has maybe a few too many I love NY style shots. Also, the cameos border on Apatow ridiculous levels towards the end, which is frankly too much with Aaron’s already annoying friendship with basketball super star LeBron James. It’s a good first feature for a strong female voice and one that lets herself be a little bit messy and work through it. It might not be for everyone, but it’s different and shameless and that’s a great way to be.