(2015) (Amy Schumer, Bill Hader) (R)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Comedy: A sexually promiscuous woman finds herself falling in love for the first time in her life.
- From the time she was a little girl, Amy (AMY SCHUMER) had it drilled into her head by her philandering father, Gordon (COLIN QUINN), that monogamy was not possible. Flash forward to today, and Amy is a successful magazine writer working for a hard-nosed boss named Dianna (TILDA SWINTON). She has had a string of booze-fueled, one-night stands and short-term sexual relationships free of commitment, and that's the way she likes it. She does have a muscular, fitness-obsessed, steady boyfriend, Steven (JOHN CENA). But she cheats on him a lot and knows that she really won't end up with him for the long term.
Then, one day, Dianna assigns her to interview Dr. Aaron Conner (BILL HADER), a smart and successful surgeon who has performed career-saving operations on everyone from Amar'e Stoudamire to Tom Brady to Roger Federer. As she gets to know him in preparation for writing the feature, she's surprised to find herself falling hard for him. Even more surprising, he seems to like her just as much. The two begin a monogamous relationship, despite the concerns of Aaron's good friend and NBA star, LeBron James (HIMSELF).
At the same time, Amy quarrels with her younger sister, Kim (BRIE LARSON), who has gotten married to a straight-laced good guy named Tom (MIKE BIRBIGLIA) and become stepmother to his very sensitive son, Allister (EVAN BRINKMAN). Amy thinks Kim has settled and is living a boring life, having ignored the warnings of their dad about only being with one person the rest of your life. Amy's relationship phobias, promiscuous past, and fears of true intimacy threaten to unravel her budding relationship with Aaron.
- OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
- The new comedy "Trainwreck" marks the first time that Judd Apatow has directed a movie that he didn't write. And to that I say ... Thank God!!! One of the first films I ever reviewed for ScreenIt.com was his "Funny People," a raunchy-mopey Adam Sandler/Seth Rogen dramedy that ran 146 minutes. It nearly broke me. A few years later, Apatow wrote and directed the putrid, upper-middle-class, white-people whine-fest "This Is 40." That clocked in at 134 minutes. Yup, it was 12 minutes shorter than "Funny People." Yet somehow felt longer. "Shoah" was easier to get through than "This Is 40," dear readers.
Part of the problem with Apatow's comedies is his agreeing to let his actors improv, ad-lib, and go WAY off script. And somehow the DVD versions always have even longer Unrated cuts in which the cast members ramble on and on even more with unfunny riffs or recurring jokes that get beaten into the ground. And the actors always get that stupid, rabid look in their eyes when they start mixing it up with each other. They look like dogs magically transformed into humans during those moments, frothing at the mouth and basically saying to each other, "Oh my God! Are we playing?! Are we playing?! Is that what we're doing? OK, let's play! Let's play!"
Not so with "Trainwreck." The film is written by actress-comedian Amy Schumer. And while the film still clocks in at two hours and five minutes, it's a pretty tight piece of scripting with a main through-line in Schumer's Amy, a boozy, promiscuous thirty-something journalist who falls in love for the first time in her life. The screenplay is marvelously constructed, with each of the supporting characters resonating off of the main character. But there's enough air in the story to allow for a few tangents here and there that are mostly funny or at least interesting to watch. Best of all, you almost always get the sense that the actors mouthing their dialogue are actually doing so because it has been written for them.
The nice guy Amy meets and falls for is Dr. Aaron Conner, a surgeon who specializes in career-saving knee and leg operations for major sports stars. All of her life, Amy has taken her cue from her father, Gordon (Colin Quinn), a man who cheated on her mother repeatedly and has drilled it into her and her sister Kim's (Alison Brie) heads that monogamy is not possible. Kim, though, discovered that their dad was full of it years earlier, and she has married, become stepmother to a young son, and is pregnant with a child of her own. Amy, by contrast, has slept her way through the Gotham bar scene.
All "Trainwreck" really needed was those central characters. But the film really shines in how many of the smaller supporting characters score here. Tilda Swinton plays Amy's terror of a managing editor, and it's great to see her elevate such a broad, mainstream comedy. At the same time, Apatow shows a deft touch in casting NBA superstar LeBron James as Aaron's best buddy, and the joke is he plays a cheapskate version of himself looking to have his parking validated and to split the lunch checks. Pro wrestler John Cena, meanwhile, plays a nice-guy muscle-head early in the film who Amy beds, then drops because he is a mess when it comes to talking dirty.
I suspect the reviewers and audience members who will not like this movie will do so because they object to Amy's lifestyle. She sleeps with a lot of guys in the film (including a 16-year-old boy, who she thought was legal), drinks to the point of blackouts, and smokes marijuana. What she is, in my review, is the reverse playboy who needs to be tamed that is a staple of so many other comedies of this type. And in reversing the narrative, Schumer makes it so the male conquests are the ones who are always seen naked, while she stays in a bra and panties or underneath covers. She gets all of the best lines and gets stuck in the awkward, quirky, trailer-ready predicaments.
Hader can be such a funny guy, that it IS indeed a disappointment to see him play such a straight-lace here. Aaron really could have had a quirk or two that would have allowed the former "Saturday Night Live" star to cut loose. There are some scenes that go on too long and a recurring bit involving an art house film starring Daniel Radcliffe as a dog walker that could have been cut out entirely and tightened the running time and pace.
But for a first-time, feature-length screenplay as well as her first time headlining a movie, Schumer succeeds. She's rougher around the edges than previous rom-com queens like Meg Ryan and Kate Hudson. She has that likability factor that is so hard to come by these days. You feel like you want to have a beer with her, talk about flicks and TV shows, take her home to meet your mother and-- OK, maybe not that far. At the very least, you'll want to see more of her after this "Trainwreck." I give the movie a solid 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)
Reviewed July 14, 2015 / Posted July 17, 2015
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