Jul 27, 2015
Some are complaining that this movie, written by Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, turns Schumer's irreverent and subversive humor into conventional comedy. I have less problems with having a happy ending in a romantic comedy, than with the movie trying too hard to appeal to both genders from Mars and Venus. Namely, I'm not interested in Lebron James, or Amar'e Stoudemire, or the NY Knicks, or any of the tepid, has-been celebrities who make undistinguished appearances for no purpose other than to satisfy fanboys. I'm interested in Amy Schumer, who is a sharp satirist and like many great comedians, is able to turn off-putting flaws into endearing quirks, and some seriously funny truth-telling.
I'm also interested in Bill Hader, who is funny and winning as Aaron, the celebrity sports doctor who falls in love with Amy. Besides, it's a sin to waste screen time on sports stars when it could be wisely spent on Tilda Swinton, doing an unrecognizable turn as a horrid editor, or the funny Vanessa Bayer, or Ezra Miller, upon whom one could gaze at for two hours without interruption. And I'm mostly interested in "Amy", a magazine writer and unapologetic slut with commitment phobia, and in how, to her chagrin, she ends up falling for Aaron.
The Knicks must have paid for the branded content, and Apatow and Schumer try very hard to weave them into the story. Except for a funny visual gag in which Hader plays a mano a mano with Lebron, and a droll cheerleading routine, the time we spend in the guys' corner (sports) is deader than a four day old dead fish. It's as if someone were afraid that guys can't laugh at a female character who loves to drink, sleep around and is mortally afraid of commitment. You have to give the guys something else, whether it is projectile vomiting, which I doubt any woman has ever demanded from a movie, or wooden sports stars. Don't we trust that Amy Schumer can carry her own high-concept film without this kind of help? Women rarely get their something else in most Hollywood flicks for guys. We just sit there through the endless chases, gun fights and explosions, our eyes glazing over.
Trainwreck feels schizophrenic, swinging between Schumer at her best, and a patchy script. Apatow likes to sprinkle his comedy with pathos. Alas, as gifted as he is for making good-natured comedies, Chekhov he isn't, and in this film the blend seems particularly forced, since Schumer is primarily a satirist, and satire and pathos rarely mix.
Amy has been given a family sob story. She has a nasty dad (Colin Quinn) who is losing his mind to Alzheimer's, and a sister (the lovely and adroit Brie Larson) who hates her dad. This means tears have to drop, and family reconciliations have to happen. Someone in the chain of command did not quite trust that Amy was sympathetic enough -- hence the melodrama. But what makes Amy Schumer sympathetic, even adorable, is precisely how unapologetic she is. I applaud a woman who makes a violently icky face at the news of her happily married sister becoming pregnant. I don't necessarily want her to be nice.
Schumer's satirical kind of sketch humor may be hard to translate to a full-fledged movie onscreen. Still, that doesn't mean that she has to go all gooey on us. The movie's concept, a woman who turns tables on men by behaving as caddishly as they do, has plenty of comedic legs. Unfortunately, Trainwreck does not totally deliver on the promise of Amy Schumer. The audience expects irreverence and subversion, not a paid commercial for the N.Y. Knicks, let alone a heart-warming story about family, spottily moving as it may be.