Directed by Judd Apatow, written by Amy Schumer
I’ve been enjoying Amy Schumer’s rise to pop culture hot thing status. In the past six months she’s elevated her Comedy Central TV show into meme-worthy funny. This kind of attention doesn’t happen by accident. She’s a comedian with a great knack for puncturing tired, patriarchal attitudes and double-standards.
So when I heard she was teaming up with Judd Apatow, who’s at least partly responsible for Lena Dunham’s success with Girls, I was hopeful that Schumer’s sharp-edged humour would make the transition to a really shit-disurbing R-rated feature comedy.
Well, Trainwreck isn’t nearly as edgy as I’d hoped. It’s not bad, a nice switch of the gendered roles in your average romcom or bromcom, but if you’re looking for something really cutting, you’ll need to go back to Schumer’s TV work.
Movie Amy is a staff writer at an obnoxious New York men’s magazine called S’nuff. She’s a promiscuous commitment-phobe, following the example of her crusty, bigoted father, Gordon (Colin Quinn), who these days is suffering from MS and in an assisted living environment his daughters can’t afford. Amy’s sister, Kim (Brie Larson), is married with a stepson and a baby on the way, and Amy never misses a chance to make fun of her, her husband, and her more “mature” decision-making.
When things sour with her muscle-bound, closeted sleep-over buddy, Steven (John Cena), Amy takes a shine to Aaron (Bill Hader), a sports doctor she’s supposed to be profiling for her magazine. After they sleep together, she’s put off by the fact he’s interested in her for more than just sex.
I suspect this is supposed to be hilarious, this reversal of roles. Amy has a buddy at work (SNL vet Vanessa Bayer) who backs up her concern when Aaron unreasonably asks Amy out after their one-night stand, and LeBron James (playing himself and offering some terrific comic timing) is the sweet, protective friend of Aaron’s who looks out for his best interests.
It’s a pretty good gag, the sensitive committed men versus the bawdy, sex-craxed women, but it’s pretty one-note, and they keep coming back to it. Might have been fairly revolutionary years ago, but it just feels kind of conventional today. It works to a degree, but I thought we’d get more from Schumer, who knows her way around provocative, political material.
That said, Schumer delivers a lot of the funny that’s here. There are a few well-placed and raunchy jokes about Staten Island, professional sports, menstruation, and a penis that resembles the whole cast of Game of Thrones. And Bill Hader is really likeable. He and Schumer muster that intangible chemistry necessary for these kinds of movies to work at all, which pays off in a wildly implausible and totally out-of-left-field denoument.
Apatow also brings aboard Tilda Swinton as Amy’s boss. She has one pretty great scene asking for pitches from her staff, but otherwise doesn’t get to do a whole lot. That’s a bit of a crime. And how is it that Amy, who’s supposed to be a terrific writer, is never taken to task for starting a relationship with her subject? Talk about a conflict of interest. Despite the final disposition of said story, I have serious doubts about Amy’s future as a feature journalist.
What about that Dog Walker movie-within-the-movie with Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei? Another good idea, but it just sort of sits there (no pun intended). Another missed opportunity.
Which, if I’m being totally honest, is about half of what Trainwreck feels like. As a mainstream romcom, it takes us where we need to go, but it could have been a whole lot more.