“Trainwreck” follows the pattern of recent Judd Apatow directed films that are good but maybe just a little too long for their own good and less like a coherent film and more like a series of hit-or-miss sketches.
Some of those sketches are great. There is one moment involving throwing up that is a tremendous feat in comedic timing, thanks to both the acting and directing. Meanwhile, the repeated use of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” is so memorable and catchy that I actually witnessed a group of people singing the song outside the theatre.
The loose structure of “Trainwreck” worked well for “This Is 40,” which simply told the complex story of a marriage. “Trainwreck” sometimes veers too far from the romantic comedy formula that it wishes to follow, and that can be an issue.
Most romantic comedies revolve around at least one person trying to find true love. Meanwhile, in the opening moments of “Trainwreck,” a child, who turns out to be the younger version of the lead, is told that “monogamy is not realistic.” The opening flashback provides the film with its darker context.
At first, “Trainwreck” isn’t about someone trying to find love, but rather someone who is trying to avoid it.
If you watched the trailers for “Trainwreck,” you were probably expecting a much different film. In fact, much of the footage shown didn’t even make it into the final cut. But misleading advertising isn’t always a bad thing. Albeit, a romantic comedy put together by a lot of talented, funny people. But it has a surprisingly serious core that grounds it.
In “Trainwreck,” Amy Schumer plays Amy, a reporter for a men’s magazine, who is told by her boss (Tilda Swinton, once again showing that she can play literally any role) that she could be up for a big promotion. To prove her worth, Amy is assigned to write an article about sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), despite the fact that she knows nothing about sports. When asked what her favourite team is, she answers “The Orlando Blooms.”
After a one night stand, the two of them, very quickly, find themselves falling in love. Once the two of them meet, the trouble for Amy is not falling in love, but rather staying in love.
Most romantic comedies end with the beginning of a relationship, the moment where the couple realises that they truly were meant to be together. Typically, that relationship begins at the end, in an airport terminal, a New Year’s Eve party, or on a bridge. What is so interesting about “Trainwreck” is that it doesn’t wait that long to start the relationship. We get to see what Aaron and Amy actually look like as a couple. And thus, we must stick around for some fights.
Besides being one of the sharpest comedic minds working today, Schumer is also a tremendous dramatic actress. She helps to provide the movie with some of the pathos that truly sets it apart. In a very rare case, Schumer was able to write her first feature film starring role. She has earned this level of control. Given that she was just nominated for an Emmy for “Inside Amy Schumer,” it seems like she is having a pretty good week.
The supporting cast of “Trainwreck” is fantastic, and widely consists of the people who would normally perform with Schumer at 1:00 AM on a Thursday night at the Comedy Cellar. Colin Quinn, best known as an anchor on Weekend Update on “Saturday Night Live,” steals every scene he is in as Schumer’s mean but loveable father who is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (this is based on Schumer’s real dad). Meanwhile, comedian Mike Birbiglia spends most of the movie in the background, but he is hilarious even when he is just roller skating.
The movie’s greatest blessing, and its greatest curse, is time. “Trainwreck” clocks in at 125 minutes, much longer than the average comedy. This has become Judd Apatow’s trademark following “Funny People” (153 minutes) and “This Is 40” (134 minutes). Just like those films, “Trainwreck” can be very hit-or-miss.
There is one long scene where Amy and her sister Kim (Brie Larson) clean out their father’s house. Amy wants to keep whatever old stuff she can find, while Kim is ready to throw it all away. This scene is long, but it perfectly captures the dynamic between the two sisters. And while Lebron James is hilarious (just seeing him get worried about trying to split a lunch bill is delightful), some of his scenes could have been cut down and they still would have been funny.
When “Trainwreck” does follow the rom-com formula, it feels like it is reinvigorating it.
Sometimes, you can make the movie everybody is expecting and still make it a little different. Whenever it feels like “Trainwreck” is achieving that, it is great. “Trainwreck” is sort of like the feature length version of watching a comedian work out material on stage at a comedy club. Sometimes it works, and sometimes they need to scribble something down in their notebook and fix it later.
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