Overview: A boozy, sexually-free magazine writer who lives by her father’s ideal that monogamy isn’t realistic starts to question her lifestyle when she falls for a charming, nice-guy sports doctor. Universal Pictures; 2015; Rated R; 125 minutes.
Is It Funny?: The answer is a resounding yes– I missed certain lines from laughing so hard and so loudly, as one is wont to do in many a Judd Apatow viewing experience. Apatow’s distinct ability to make awkward or raunchy situations funny in a poignant kind of way comes through here. So, too, does his ability to handle more dramatic moments, and to punctuate the uproarious comedy with true heart and humanity. That said, the film feels distinctly Amy Schumer’s, in tone, voice, and sense of humor. The jokes feel like her jokes, and the pain and anxiety of her character feels brutally raw and intimate at times, ironic given her character’s innate discomfort when it comes to intimacy.
Humor and Humanity: The film never villainizes Amy for her self-assured promiscuity, nor does it scoff or laugh at her when she becomes less confident in those convictions, and for this alone, the movie should be celebrated. Even when she starts to fall for Bill Hader’s infuriatingly adorable Dr. Aaron Conners, Amy is a flawed and conflicted human being, fearful of getting hurt, of changing, of guilt, and of vulnerability. Schumer shows off her acting chops in more ways than one, even if she is playing a version of herself. Ultimately, this film is meant to make you laugh and it succeeds, almost incessantly. Some scenes do carry on just a bit too long past the crucial point at which the joke landed, but when the scene cuts, you’re laughing at the next thing soon enough.
Is It Feminist?: Given the recent success of Schumer’s Comedy Central show, whose sketches have gone viral and have received widespread, mainstream acclaim for their feminist overtones and undertones, it is no wonder that some people may have had higher expectations for the film’s feminism. The film does not subvert the rom-com formula itself, and the character and story arcs are admittedly predictable, In that sense, I think some might be let down by its formulaic quality. But you’d have to do a lot of nitpicking and sifting through its many brightly shining moments to even realize that the blueprint beneath it all is indeed still a rom-com, and to determine this is somehow a bad thing (in other words– it’s not that bad a thing at all). Trainwreck‘s crowning achievement is simply swapping the gender roles formerly upheld by rom-com conventions– Amy is the one that uses cheesy stunts to win Aaron back, and Aaron is the one who wants to talk about their problems instead of letting them fester or come between them, and he is the one who wants a sleepover replete with spooning. The reversal never feels forced or unrealistic, which in itself forces us to question gender stereotypes in these kinds of films– and even with Amy cleaning up her act, her complex personality and sexual openness in conversation (especially in the uncomfortable-turned-outrageous baby shower scene) make her a singular rom-com heroine for the current times. And, it wouldn’t be Amy Schumer without a couple of zingy one-liners. Listen especially for one in response to NY Knicks cheerleaders and women’s right to vote.
Speaking of Cheerleaders: Apatow and Schumer’s film also succeeds as well as it does thanks to Amy’s friends filling up the supporting roles– from some of her comedian friends who perhaps only more discerning fans might recognize (like Dave Attell and Nikki Glaser), to big name actors (Matthew Broderick? Daniel Radcliffe?) and even athletes (John Cena’s strangely homoerotic movie theater verbal battle, and Lebron James’ adorable banter with best friend Aaron were some of the silliest and most enjoyable parts of the film, actually). Bill Hader is predictably great. Tilda Swinton, unrecognizable as always, is hilarious as Amy’s boss and editor. Mike Birbiglia, Brie Larson, and Colin Quinn all also shine in their respective roles.
Overall: This film is a welcome-back-to-greatness directorial effort for Apatow but even more so, it is a real welcome-to-the-big-leagues for Schumer, While not necessarily perfect or as rebellious as some fans might expect, Trainwreck is defiant and undeniably refreshing in its own specific ways. Schumer is the comedy leading lady we need right now, and her presence alone make the film a unique, must-watch comedy, and honestly– a near-triumph.