17 July 2015

Review: Trainwreck


trAmy Schumer already cemented her place on my year's favorite entertainment list when she managed to loosely remake 12 Angry Men for the fourth episode of Inside Amy Schumer, but not satisfied wth owning television, Schumer decides to revive the romantic comedy for 2015. Lazy writing has cursed the genre for much of the last few decades and studios have responded in kind by not pursuing that market with the gusto they used to. A film this funny and engaging might change minds at some studios, because Trainwreck is a very good romantic comedy.

As soon as the film opens it's clear that the story will not be hitting the same beats that audiences are used to. Schumer eschews tradtional romantic comedy dynamics by opening with Gordon (Colin Quinn) trying to instill a paralytic fear against monogamy in his young daughters. Years later, it appears he was only half successful. Youngest daughter Kim (Brie Larson) is happily married, mother to a step-son, and expecting another child. Amy (Amy Schumer), however, took her father's words to heart and wasted no time indulging in a good deal of alcohol, pot and casual sex.

Quite a few comedies have featured the sexual exploits of their male leads, but the reverse has not been true. After one encounter she wakes up to find a Scarface poster on the wall and quietly pleads that she isn't in a dorm room. The revolving door of men she spends her evenings with is supposed to be a remedy for boring committment, but Amy is weary of this routine as well. Rather than continuing to sleep with her stable of guys, she gives dating a shot and the resulting aftermath with Steven (a very entertaining John Cena) at the movies is one of the film's more hilarious scenes.

When Amy isn't living it up she writes for S’Nuff, a men's magazine, headed by ruthless editor Dianna (Tilda Swinton). Amy's latest assignment is to shadow Aaron (Bill Hader), a surgeon to the stars of the sports world including LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire. Originally just a subject piece, Aaron blindsides Amy when their flirtation turns into something more. Amy has trained herself to bail at the first sign of trouble, but with Aaron she might consider hanging around. Bill Hader excels when given the chance to lead a film (The Skeleton Twins), hopefully he will be get more chances to do so again. Hader and Amy Schumer have great chemistry together and when they are on screen together, it's a blast. They constantly try to out-do each other and nearly every minute is filled with laughs. Surprisingly, the scenes that truly mark Trainwreck as a success are with Brie Larson and Colin Quinn.

Fleshing out strained family relationships should prove a challenge for an actress in her first outing on the bigscreen, but Ms. Schumer proves that the slide from stand-up comedian to actress won't be difficult. Amy Schumer shows off a very different side of herself from her show on Comedy Central. She doesn't refrain from going into sad material, in particular Colin Quinn as her father, who is in poor health and looking at assisted living. These moments work really well, but the running time is a little too stuffed with other subplots for them to stand out.

Trainwreck marks the first time Judd Apatow is directing a script he has not written, and while it's very much Schumer's show, the movie still lacks tightness. Apatow excels at putting together large groups of actors and then finding the characters that work best for them, but when the film gets to the editing bay, he can't bear to cut anything. Fortunately, Trainwreck has the best ensemble of any film in 2015. Any moviegoer would be hard-pressed to find a better cast. John Cena and LeBron James, plucked from the sports world, both possess terrific comedic timing on top of their athletic prowess and professional success. Life doesn't seem fair that way. And it isn't just these two athletes, Tilda Swinton would run away with the show if she were in the film more often. There is nothing that she can't do.

For all of the risks that Schumer and Apatow take with Trainwreck, it is still a rom-com, even with the leads gender-switched. Accordingly the final 20 minutes are spent dotting the Is and crossing the Ts. I certainly don't expect Amy Schumer to reinvent the wheel because when something works, it works. Comedy lovers anxiously await her next effort. A new star is born.

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