D: Judd Apatow / 125m
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller, Mike Birbiglia, Evan Brinkman, LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudemire, Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei
Amy Townsend (Schumer) is a magazine journalist whose idea of a relationship is to sleep with a guy on the first date and then wave goodbye to them in the morning (or sooner if she’s able to). She works for a men’s magazine called S’nuff that publishes articles such as “You’re Not Gay, She’s Boring”; when her editor, Dianna (Swinton) assigns her to write a profile on sports doctor Aaron Conners (Hader), she balks because she knows nothing about sports and thinks it’s all too silly.
At the same time as all this is going on, Amy and her sister Kim (Larson) are trying to get their father, Gordon (Quinn), who’s suffering from multiple sclerosis, into a nursing home. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon and is always antagonising or upsetting people. He also cheated on their mother and Kim resents him for it, though Amy is more forgiving. When she meets Aaron he quickly guesses that she knows nothing about sports, but there’s an attraction between them, and she plans to meet up with him again. In the meantime an evening with her on/off boyfriend Steven (Cena) goes horribly wrong when he learns about all the other men she’s been seeing.
Kim, who’s married to Tom (Birbiglia) and is stepmother to his son Allister (Brinkman), reveals she’s pregnant, but when she tells Gordon his attitude leads to her and Amy falling out. Amy meets Aaron again and after the interview they go back to his place and have sex; Amy breaks her own rule and stays the night. Panicked by this unexpected turn of events, Amy decides she must end things but Aaron calls wanting to see her again. At the next interview she intends to tell him but her dad has a fall and she and Aaron go to him, and Aaron stitches his head wound.
Amy and Aaron begin dating in earnest but she’s worried she’ll screw it up. At a baby shower for her sister, Amy upsets everyone with tales of her sexual escapades, but when she tries to apologise to Kim a couple of days later, Kim has some bad news that brings them back together. Later though they have another falling out, and she and Aaron argue as well. When she attends a function where Aaron is to receive an award she gets a call from Dianna and leaves the room while he makes his speech. When he catches up with her outside they have a fight which carries on back at his apartment. The next morning Aaron is unable to go ahead with an operation because of how tired he is. When he confronts Amy and says they should take a break, she takes him to mean permanently. Aware that this is one argument he’s not going to win, he leaves, which prompts Amy to return to her old ways… but this gets her into more trouble than she ever expected…
Best known for her TV appearances in the likes of A Different Spin with Mark Hoppus (2010), Delocated (2012) and her own show, Inside Amy Schumer (2013-15), the writer and star of Trainwreck is perhaps an unlikely choice to drive a relationship dramedy directed by Judd Apatow, but surprisingly enough, Schumer does extremely well in both departments. She’s not the world’s greatest actress, and her script skirts perilously close at times to being needlessly crude, but with the aid of Apatow, Hader and a strong supporting cast, Schumer has come up with a story that covers a lot of emotional ground and manages to avoid short-changing its characters.
And while her script isn’t exactly the most original concoction out there – too much happens that makes it look as if Schumer followed a pre-existing blueprint – what makes it work as well as it does is Apatow’s handling of the various relationships and the way in which he gives his cast the room to flesh out their characters beyond the story’s conventions, and pays close attention to the serious undertones that are present throughout. These are key to the movie’s overall effectiveness, and shows that Schumer the writer is able to be poignant and touching, as well as funny and caustic. There’s a brief scene between Amy and Allister that is as touching as anything you’ll see in a more dramatic movie, and the moment when Steven reveals his true feelings for Amy is superbly written, acted and directed.
Of course, this is primarily a comedy, but though it is incredibly funny in places – Amy’s attempt at a slam dunk is the movie’s comedy highlight – there are also times where the script tries too hard, notably in a sex scene involving Schumer and Cena that undermines the idea of Amy and Steven being together and includes Cena talking dirty in Chinese (but not really). Elsewhere there are some great one-liners (Aaron calling LeBron James his bitch), instances of situational comedy that brighten things immensely (Amy’s aforementioned speech about her sexual escapades), and some great visual gags too (co-worker Nikki’s smile). All in all the comedy and the drama are well balanced and neither detracts from the other.
The cast enter into the spirit of things with enthusiasm, and aside from the inclusion of some real life athletes (James is particularly awkward), there are some really great performances, notably from Larson as the sensible but resentful sister, and Cena as the boyfriend whose inappropriate responses to another cinema goer’s complaints is another of the movie’s highlights. Schumer proves herself to be a better actress than you might expect, and Hader shows a sensitivity as Aaron that grounds the character and makes him entirely sympathetic. And there are brilliant cameos from Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei in the movie Amy and Steven go to see called The Dogwalker, a small masterpiece of Sixties existential canine distress appropriately shot in black and white and which is such a glorious pastiche it leaves you wanting more.
Trainwreck is a little slow to get off the ground, and Amy’s behaviour may put off some viewers, but this is a movie that tugs at the heartstrings just as much as it tickles the funny bone. With Apatow using his directorial prowess to enhance Schumer’s script, and a cast prepared to give it their all, Schumer’s first attempt at a polished, nuanced movie is mostly successful, though what missteps it does make aren’t enough to hurt it.
Rating: 8/10 – an unexpected treat (even with the talent involved), Trainwreck is a small triumph, both laugh out loud funny and tearfully serious; all credit to Schumer for coming up with such an intelligent script and not trying to make every scene full of unnecessary jokes.