Trainwreck review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Amy Schumer has plunged into the comedy scene with the usual vulgarity that turns heads. Her stand-up routines know no bounds and her scandalous photographs with C3PO and R2D2 defined her image of comedy. Working with director Judd Apatow, she has written her brand of humor into a romantic comedy the way it works best for her persona. Her character isn’t just some ditzy girl freaking out about getting the guy, but a complete mess of a human being freaking out about getting the guy. While at a party of wives who discuss the dirty nature of letting their kids watch Glee, Amy unleashes her story about shoving her fingers into her vagina. It’s crude, but boldly honest enough to make one wife admit that she had a threeway.
The nature of Trainwreck falls right in the middle of the Judd Apatow wheelhouse. It’s not raunchy and ridiculous enough to be a Pineapple Express, nor is it harsh enough to be a This Is 40. It may seem like his most balanced of comedies by that definition, finding a yin and yang of romantic chemistry and jokes about drugs and alcoholism. It also seems to be right up Amy Schumer’s alley the way she crafts a script where she can have her cake and puke on it too. But in trying to please both sides of the sweet and salty aisles, it doesn’t mesh as well as it should for a comedy. It’s an effort far more admirable for how contrarily unique it separates itself from the competition.
Amy Schumer’s character of Amy Townsend is not seen as the average woman who falls into love, at least by romantic comedy standards. Having been taught by her dad at early age that marriage never works, she finds herself unable to commit and unwilling to find the right man. While on dates, she will constantly drink, smoke and stir up trouble whenever it seems funny. She’s cool with open relationships, but the men she dates all want something more that she’s not willing to give. While John Cena talks about the life he envisioned for marriage during his breakup talk, Amy simply doesn’t know how to respond being as high as she is.
Of course, she can’t be a crippling drunk with major problems since that would not only be too depressing, but also not fit with the New York City atmosphere. We need to have her take in the beautiful sights and sounds of the city. So she’s naturally a talented writer at a big magazine. For being as much of a booze hound and stoner as she is, she’s apparently a good enough writer to be considered as an editor. Work isn’t a problem for her, but commitment is. Okay, so the drinking is a problem as well, but one step at a time.
So when Bill Hader comes into her life as sports doctor Aaron Conners and actually wants to stick with her, it’s seen as weird and strange in Amy’s eyes. She likes Conners and they make a great couple, but Amy has to unlearn all her bad habits. Actually doing so is easy enough, but working up the courage to make that choice is the real struggle. Thus begins the dance where Amy strifes against her married sister with kids, her bitter aging dad and her rollercoaster of a relationship with Aaron.
As with any romantic comedy, the plot never matters. It’s all about how well the characters work and how much chemistry they have together. This is where Trainwreck shines most as Schumer and Hader work well playing off each other in every scene. There’s never a moment that feels too savagely dramatic between the two. She blows up with her problems at him by ranting all night long, but Hader still makes it amusing in how he falls asleep during the fight and actively tries to keep listening. They both desperately want to make it work and we know they will since neither explodes during a fight. Even in their most heated moments, they’re still just trying to be nice to one another.
The comedy is unfortunately average Apatow or rather average Schumer since she wrote the script. She can hold a scene without question (which should be a given since they’re her words), but doesn’t quite do as well when relying on her usual shtick of raunchy material. It’s a common trait of Apatow comedies to allow the actors to go off on their own improv and usually with the easy subjects of sex and drugs. I’m growing very tired of these pictures that just leave the camera on for these scenes where the actors stammer around for comedy and possibly strike gold. This picture is lucky in that it strikes enough silver to be worthy of not cutting scenes shorter. The scenes that are more staged, as when Aaron finds his celebrity friends delivering a hilarious love intervention, are notably more funny than the improv shots by a mile.
Trainwreck features great leads and wonderful chemistry, but turns in more expected smirks than surprising laughs. I’m sure there’s probably some rebellious “screw-the-formula” tone to this script which is admirable, but it would be more likable if the jokes were actually a different kind of funny rather than raunchy and awkward. It may be trying to buck the romantic comedy genre, but it still plays it safe inside the Apatow brand of humor. Still, when all is said and done, the smiles far outweigh the sighs in a picture struggling to find that happy center of a romcom both charming and gross.