July 17, 2015


Amy, let's toast you leapfrogging me on the marquee

Grade: B –
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Colin Quinn, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Mike Birbiglia, John Cena and LeBron James
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hr. 5 min.

Although Trainwreck strikes a cursory blow for comedic gender equity, it’s really a perpetuation of conventional mores gussied up in broad-based, off-color garb. Comedian Amy Schumer carries over her biting TV and stand-up act to this ribald rom-com directed by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up: The 40-Year-Old Virgin). While the film puts on airs of female empowerment, its derivative message is that the women can’t achieve happiness until they embrace sports, curtail the crazy and settle down with a man.

Amy (also the name of her character) was weaned from childhood on the mantra that “monogamy isn’t realistic” by her racist, rascal father (Colin Quinn). Years later, Amy is a YA living in NYC and working at a lads’ mag for a merciless editor (Tilda Swinton in a terrific, rare comic turn). At night, a (usually drunk) Amy hops from bar-to-bed with a carousel of anonymous men—she wakes one morning and, spying a Scarface poster on the wall, quietly intones, “Please don’t be a dorm room.”

Her closest thing to a steady is Steven (WWE wrestler John Cena, sneaky good), a beefcake with intimacy issues and a predilection for ambiguously gay exclamations. He’s into Amy. Amy isn’t into anyone—for her, sex is a grim chore.

The more intriguing character for this setup would be the charming city girl whose sensuality is divorced from a recognition about the corrosive consequences of her selfish sexual appetites. Instead, Amy is caustic and emotionally abusive to everyone, particularly Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), New York’s hottest orthopedist to the sports stars, whose wide grin and easy manner stir Amy’s inner romantic, much to her chagrin. The inexplicably single Aaron is drawn to Amy despite her pathological efforts to sabotage their relationship.

Amy constantly lambasts the suburban family life of her sister Kim (Brie Larson, badly in need of another starring vehicle), her milquetoast husband (Mike Birbiglia) and her precocious stepson (Evan Brinkman). But that idyllic ideal is Amy’s—and the film’s—teary destination. Even the New York Knicks cheerleaders that Amy skewers as a gyrating exemplar of female ideation ultimately figure into her scheme to finally win back her man.

There’s also the recurring elitist streak that runs through much of Apatow’s recent work, typified by a supporting cast seemingly recruited from one of the filmmaker’s dinner parties. LeBron James acquits himself well as one of Aaron’s devoted patients. But long, lumbering scenes feature Aaron and LeBron getting lunch, playing basketball and attending a glitzy charity jam fest of some sort. Meanwhile, the film devotes scant time to hilarious slice-of-life sequences, like one featuring Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live) showing the reflexive rudeness of New York subway passengers.

At one point, LeBron, Matthew Broderick, Chris Evert and Marv Albert conduct an intervention on Aaron for no discernable reason other than Apatow’s stargazing. Trainwreck could have used similar assistance. At its best, it’s a gender-reversal, neo-Woody Allen comedy. If only it hadn’t settled down.

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