Trainwreck is written by comedian Amy Schumer and directed by comedy melodrama behemoth Judd Apatow. In it, Schumer plays Amy Townsend, a promiscuous journalist who has adopted a lifestyle similar to her alcoholic father (Colin Quinn). When she is assigned to write a piece on Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), a surgeon for athletes, they become romantically involved, but Amy’s lack of faith in monogamy threatens to ruin their potential future together.
The film brings Schumer’s familiar raunchy brand of comedy to the big screen. It is a sexually charged style of humor that could conceivably derail a feature length project before the film gains any traction. However, the dirty humor quickly falls to the background as the film moves into its second act. Trainwreck actually carries a lot of emotional weight for what could be labeled a sex comedy, making it reminiscent of the early films of Apatow. Sure, there are plenty of sex jokes (See: the boulder that is naked John Cena attempting dirty talk), but it does not dominate the comedy of the film.
What works so well for Trainwreck is the depth of its characters, something often lacking in even the best of comedies. The characters all have their quirks, but for the most part they are grounded in reality. Aaron loves “Uptown Girl” and thinks cheerleaders are important to the very fabric of society, but he is also a nice guy who is somewhat naive. Amy’s father is firm with his hatred of monogamy, literally making his young children repeat the sentiment as a mantra in the first scene, and his character is centered around a grumpy old man routine. But Quinn shows some subtlety by letting the right amount of heart for his character’s daughters show through.
Schumer’s script juggles lewd humor and sentimentality with finesse, and none of the balls get dropped. The film tries to hide the fact that it is a romantic comedy just long enough to fool those who have an aversion to the very mention of the genre. It is the rom-com for the anti-rom-com moviegoer.
The acting across the board is solid. Schumer stands out, but Brie Larson and the aforementioned performance of Quinn are also of note. Most surprising is the success of the many athlete cameos. Amar’e Stoudemire, John Cena, and LeBron James all fare spectacularly well among their onscreen comedy partners. Cena’s heart-on-his-sleeve boyfriend character is hilarious, particularly during a scene in which he is viewing a screening of a Daniel Radcliffe-Marisa Tomei art house vehicle named “The Dog Walker.” And James’ stingy despite his means best friend character is equally laugh-worthy, especially during a scene between him and Schumer at a charity event. The multiple cameos by SNL featured players are more hit or miss, although Vanessa Bayer gives a strong performance as Amy’s nervous co-worker.
There isn’t much to be critical of with Trainwreck. The occasional voiceover is sporadic and unnecessary. Certain scenes are awkward and equally unnecessary, such as an intervention for Aaron hosted by James and featuring strange cameos by Marv Albert, Chris Evert and Matthew Broderick.
For the most part, though, Trainwreck is a strong character-driven comedy. Schumer shines as the star and even more so as the pen behind the film. The movie is the rare balance between raunch and heart that is a needle in the haystack of tired comedies that we are used to. Comedy writers take note: there is a new bar set for what a quality romantic comedy is.
Trainwreck is currently available to rent/buy on Amazon Video here.
Have you seen Trainwreck? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)