Movie Review: Trainwreck
Director: Judd Apatow
Reviewed: 13 August 2015
Judd Apatow gets in the way of his lead performer, the great Amy Schumer, in her first screenplay Trainwreck, where she plays that familiar trope of a successful writer whom we never see write or represent any of the discipline or interiority of a writer. That's an easy complaint, and one made by Film Critic Roger Ebert long ago, that to show such an internal thing as writing is a struggle in film, but I think more importantly, Apatow (and sometimes Schumer) do not know how to show her character, a successful writer who is a mess in her personal life, from out of control drinking and sexual encounters to failing to connect with her father and sister. There is growth, but it seems to happen off screen with very little sharing of it beyond an obvious shot or two. Regardless, Schumer is deeply funny and tremendously talented, and I hope this movie is the beginning of more daring, exciting work from her.
The film raised many questions for me, and I think those have percolated in the weeks since I have seen it. After a sharp, very funny opening flashback with Colin Quinn introduced as her father whose rant about monogamy sets the tone, the film hovers around ideas related to aging and growing up with Brie Larson playing her married sister while constructing Amy's office life in a much sketchier, incomplete, and unsatisfying way. Amy negotiates an unsuccessful relationship with boyfriend Steven (John Cena, hilarious), but when things go sour for him, Amy finds herself drawn to the subject of her latest article: surgeon Aaron (Bill Hader), a guy who is smart and funny and seems to have an instant chemistry with her. And, he also happens to be best buddies with LeBron James. Amy's journey of discovery about entering into a relationship with Aaron becomes juxtaposed against her relationship with her father, who is suffering from MS and in assisted living, and her sister with a more domesticated life.
What's to like: LeBron James. Let's just say it. The guy is flat-out wonderful in this film, and the supporting cast in generally of John Cena, Vanessa Bayer, a slew of comedians in recognizable and unrecognizable roles does fine work. Schumer has some very funny moments herself, and her scenes with Hader work together, as do her scenes with Colin Quinn. I did not respond to some of the choices in the second half of the film, from the faux-chase scene to epiphanies that seem hollow and very one-sided. Hader's character misses opportunities for authenticity and development in the second half, as does exploring Amy's family struggles. There's much more here than in an average comedy, and for its high moments of laughter, I can nearly recommend it.