Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Vanessa Bayer, Mike Birbiglia, LeBron James, Dave Attell, Tilda Swinton
Release Date: July 17th, 2015
For fans of Amy Schumer, approved the new comedy Trainwreck is no surprise. The comedienne has been known to push the envelope in a unique and oftentimes hilarious way on her television show Inside Amy Schumer and during her comedy routines.
For non-fans of the performer though, story Trainwreck operates as a commendable and surprisingly heartfelt introduction to one of this year’s breakout stars.
Schumer— who stars in the film and wrote the screenplay— used some of her own experiences to create the main character, Amy. Amy — the character, not the comedienne— starts out the film as a hard-to-love and brusque magazine writer. When she’s not writing, she’s out drinking, smoking and having flings with random guys. She has a boyfriend named Steven (John Cena) but to her, their relationship isn’t to be taken seriously. Nothing is.
The film’s first forty-five minutes really explore the quirky life of the main character, which really lets the supporting cast shine. From John Cena to Tilda Swinton (who is nearly unrecognizable in her role as Amy’s editor), the Judd Apatow-directed comedy uses great comedic actors in small but memorable roles. Schumer may be the star but she’s a confident enough performer to share the spotlight with a strong cast that includes Colin Quinn as her father and Brie Larson as her married and more stable sister.
After we see Amy in her everyday life, we see her struggling with a new professional assignment. She’s, asked to write a profile about a sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader), a physician who calls LeBron James a personal friend. At first, Amy wants nothing to do with the profile (“Sports are stupid and anyone who likes them is just like a lesser person and has a small intellect,” she says) but eventually she takes on the assignment and grows to like her charming subject.
In its second half, the film explores the couple’s budding relationship but even as it borrows from the romantic comedies of yesterday, it finds unique footing by mocking those tropes at the same time it embraces them. The comedy never falls flat as the romance builds because Schumer seemingly never loses sight of the characters. Both Amy and Aaron have strong but distinct personalities so it’s exciting to see them retain their independence at the same time they come together.
Like Schumer herself, Trainwreck takes plenty of risks. Amy’s character isn’t a typical female lead and she makes several big (and potentially unforgivable) mistakes during the course of the film— including a huge mistake near the film’s end — but instead of making the character unlikable, it just makes the character feel more real. One of the film’s greatest risks though may have been casting Cena and LeBron James as comedic players in a film that boasts some truly tremendous comedians. Fortunately, for the film those casting decisions pay off with James earning high marks here as a cast standout.
Trainwreck isn’t a traditonal romantic comedy and succeeds partly because of that. In scene after scene, the Apatow comedy turns around gender stereotypes and presents a story where great laughs can come from anywhere. With such a comedic heartbeat though, it’s easy to forget that the film’s emotional moments— and there are several of them here— pay off as well.
This is a feature that knows how to balance comedic moments with dramatic ones, leading characters with supporting ones and raunchy comedy with heartfelt situations.
Review by: John Hanlon