“You’re clever but you’re not too brainy. You’re prettyish but you’re not too gorgeous. You’re approachable.”
The thing about Trainwreck that sticks with you most is its unflinching, sometimes even strikingly nasty honesty. You’d think it would be easier to just disregard a movie about a young working woman who runs laps around the block, blacks out on a nearly habitual basis, and smokes weed whenever she feels like it. Those character qualities don’t necessarily scream your ‘typical woman.’ And that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Hollywood movies of late are all too happy to depict loathsome and childish men who are pushed to change by strong, supportive women. The ladies are mere catalysts to the worthless and lazy male. Trainwreck flips that concept on its head. Here we get a commitment-phobic woman who laughs at the idea of monogamy and relationships, only to finally be tested by a good guy. That’s real, and it has taken far too long to see this kind of story put on film. Trainwreck doesn’t want to define the modern female; it just wants to show us an example.
We first see Amy as a child, sitting on the hood of the family car with her sister Kim. Their father (Colin Quinn), a drunk and a cheater, compares his adulterating to his daughters getting to play with one doll for the rest of their lives. It’s a hilarious open with the girls repeating after him, “monogamy isn’t realistic.” Flash forward 23 years and Amy (Amy Schumer) is now in her late twenties, living a reckless life of sexual encounters and partying. Her job in the heart of New York is at S’nuff, a disgraceful magazine the equivalent of TMZ and US Weekly combined. Amy knows what she wants, or pretends to know, as she focuses on her career while her immaturity continues to thwart any chance of a relationship with another or herself.
Trainwreck feels like if you gave a romantic comedy script to a group of pubescent perverts and said, “add some jokes to this.” That’s a sincere compliment, because like the minds of adolescent boys and girls, this never shies away from being dirty. The messiness and vulgarity carries over into adulthood, and the story is representative of real people having real conversations in a way that most films simply don’t appreciate. Amy compares a tampon to Game of Thrones’ bloodbath episode “The Red Wedding.” She has a bathroom stall chat with her friend and coworker Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) about which version of Johnny Depp is the most f***able. The dialogue may be exaggerated, but like it or not, some people talk, or at least think this way. Like Amy Schumer in the movie and in real life, she proves she has not the balls, but the brains to speak her mind and make it work.
Amy is a headstrong and self-absorbed character. By her nature she just can’t carry the load alone, and probably wouldn’t want to. So, without the right supporting cast, this movie would have lived up to its title. Brie Larson is the younger sister who acts older. She plays Kim straight, authentic, and gives the comedy a nurturing female character. Equally deserving is comedian Mike Birbiglia as Kim’s frumpy husband Tom. Birbiglia just keeps getting better as an actor and makes his awkward Average Joe the right amount of forgettable and memorable. Tilda Swinton literally disappears into her role as Amy’s snooty and insensitive boss. LeBron James plays himself, and shows that he really can do it all. His off-court charisma effortlessly carries over into his performance. And as Amy’s semi-serious boyfriend Steven, the hulking John Cena makes a lasting impression in only a handful of scenes. His attempt at foreplay is a stroke of genius.
This is a Rom-com with a female lead, so as such, her male counterpart is crucial to the believability of the budding or failing romance. Bill Hader is Aaron Conners, an all-around nice guy and top sports doctor who is the subject of Amy’s latest article. He sees something in this woman and falls for her immediately. Hader proves that he can be a leading man…you just can’t not like him. He’s funny without trying, and since last year’s The Skeleton Twins has shown he has the ability to be a real dramatic actor. Those big buggy eyes of his emote any emotion he wants. The guy has command over his craft. As for Schumer, there really is nothing left to be said. She has changed the landscape of comedy for the better. She’s progressive and cruel while restrained and respectful. I don’t know how she pulls off being so crass while exuding such intellect and smarts. We know she’s funny. That’s a given. What’s remarkable is how well she handles the drama. Her character is charming and infuriating, and Schumer gives us one of the best female performances of the year thus far.
The latest from Director Judd Apatow, and working off of Schumer’s incredible first screenplay, Trainwreck ranks up there with some of the best of his work. Still, Apatow’s hamartia is his unwillingness to edit and dial down his movies. There are a couple pointless scenes, unnecessary shots, and way too many characters given more time than they deserve. The focus leaves Amy and Aaron more than it should. Still, it’s mightily funny and surprisingly dramatic. It’s a lot like last year’s Obvious Child in the reversed gender roles and jokes infused into a serious topic. Regardless, the real draw here is Schumer, and she makes the film what it is. She has both an angel and a devil on her shoulders, and I imagine she listens to the bad guy a little bit more. The movie is a rarity because of her sharp insight as well as her ability to invite us in on the jokes and move us to sympathetic tears. Trainwreck is an emotional round trip journey full of life’s ups and downs and one giant leap for womankind’s portrayal in contemporary cinema. Schumer is a force to be reckoned with, and she’ll say that right to your face.
“I’m just a modern chick who does what she wants.”
Rating: 4 out of 5