In Trainwreck, Amy Schumer plays Amy, an irresponsible, mostly mean, and wickedly funny magazine writer who goes through life caring little about others, especially men. She goes through men quickly and evades any sense real intimacy or vulnerability until she meets Aaron (Bill Hader), the subject of her latest writing assignment.
The story here won’t blow you away and this movie really isn’t about revolutionizing the rom-com. Amy meets Aaron, they face adversity but fall in love anyway, and end up together in the end. What makes the movie work is the writing, the commentary on gender, and the performances and the supporting cast. Even if Ezra Miller and a hilarious, nearly unrecognizable Tilda Swinton don’t have quite enough to do, it’s forgivable because there is a fantastic Woody Allen joke in this film.
Amy’s father (Colin Quinn) is an endearing racist who instilled in Amy some pretty dark values around marriage and relationships. Amy and her sister have a close but rocky relationship as they seemingly took very different learnings out of their childhood. The family dynamic, although not always the most interesting plotline, was effective in rounding out Amy’s character and explaining the relationships with the people around her.
Bill Hader is reliably excellent as Amy’s love interest, Aaron, playing what might be never-before-seen leading man in a romantic comedy. He is kind without being weak, intelligent, forward about his feelings, and does a great demonic impression of the woman he loves. The relationship he builds with Amy, even though we do miss a lot of the dating stage, and his strange friendship with Lebron James are crazy enjoyable.
James is the surprise here, a total scene stealer playing an exaggerated version of himself. Here, James is funny and warm but still very competitive on the court, as his dear friend Aaron learns the hard way. Among the supporting cast, he is the most relied on for laughs, and comes through.
Many view this as a return to form for Judd Apatow, who excels here at allowing actors off-script without slowing the plot, and surrounds his leading couple with a hugely talented cast. All of Apatow’s best traits as a director are present in this film and like in his best directorial efforts, the actors have the room to be funny.
While some scenes and cameos (Radcliffe and Tomei) fall flat, Schumer’s script is brilliant and the jokes come quickly. Audience laughter often drowned out rapidly sequenced jokes. To fully appreciate the nuanced performances and the quality of humour, a second viewing is definitely recommended. Some highlights include a surprisingly frugal Lebron James, an unexpected dance sequence, a finely narrated intervention, and an uptight baby shower. At one point, Amy’s story gets shelved in favour of publishing some mindless tripe, and it was impossible not to wonder how many scripts like these get shelved in favour of more safe or bankable fare.
Like other great comics — and Eminem in that third rap battle round in 8 Mile — Schumer disarms with self-depreciation. This tactic is used to great effect in this film as her character becomes more self-aware as the film, and her understanding of love, develop.
Trainwreck, as advertised, does challenge gender roles, and even if a vulgar female lead isn’t as sustaining of a shock as it should be, many scenes very effectively ridicule the asinine limitations put on women in film. Despite being underwhelming in its fearlessness, the film finds success not reinventing the genre but simply making a really strong, albeit largely traditional, romantic comedy. Oh, and Bill Hader and Lebron James need to star in their own buddy comedy as soon as possible.