Judd Apatow returns for a little R & R (Raunch and Romance)
Working his way up from stand-up comedian to comic writer to movie producer Judd Apatow’s resume is who’s who of rising Hollywood talent (Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco, Steve Carell, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, Kevin Hart). In 2005, he donned the title of director when he made the comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin. The combination of an earnest protagonist (played by Carell), his brash and vulgar coworkers (including Rogen), and actress Catherine Keener in a romantic comedy set-up showed that audiences were ready for a new brand of humor. His second feature, Knocked Up, about a drunken tryst gone horribly wrong and the reluctant couple trying to make the best of things, was another hit. Then came Apatow’s experiences with dramatic comedies which were met with mixed results.
Now he’s back to the romantic comedy genre with Trainwreck. Itmay be his fifth feature as a director, but the comedy’s voice isn’t his alone. Written by comedienne Amy Schumer as a starring vehicle the comedy is an extension a brand of humor that both Schumer and Judd Apatow share: expletive-laced jokes and situations. A twinge of sweetness to counteract the salty language. It’s all there on the screen.
Trainwreck is a romantic comedy that offers a twist on the plot device of pairing someone who is commitment-phobic and someone looking for a steady relationship. The twist is a reversal of genders in the romance.
Schumer plays Amy, someone whose sexual proclivities are commonly associated with men. She’s paired with Aaron (Bill Hader), the insecure one, but a guy who is able to express his true feelings and say the L-word without having it be a cue to initiate sex.
This comedy is built on Amy being assigned to write a feature story for S’Nuff magazine about Aaron, a sports doctor for the New York Knicks and other athletes. There’s no meet-cute moment that finds these two at a coffee shop or bumping into each other at a bookstore. When they first meet he initiates the two go for a drink, which is followed by a drunk one night stand that has Amy sleep over (something she never does). Aaron is convinced that they should date. Amy is resistant.
To emphasize Amy’s life is a complete trainwreck (hence the title) we get to see how she acts around her sister, Kim (Brie Larson), and dying father (Colin Quinn). Unlike sister Amy, Kim is the conventional one. Married and a mom. Amy has a deeper relationship with her stricken-with-MS father who, in the comedy’s opening flashback scene, tries to instill in both daughters that “Monogamy isn’t realistic.” Amy took that advice to heart (and bed) literally.
For someone unfamiliar with Amy Schumer or the humor she’s presented on stage or the small screen (on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer), her character in Trainwreck is an extension of her own persona. She is so in control, even under the guise of vulnerability, that when she does become destructive it’s hard to not be sympathetic. But this is all dependent upon the audience and if they can find Amy endearing.
Trainwreck is funny, with its warts-and-all protagonist and humor that changes depending the talent on screen. Bill Hader is quite good as the down-to-earth boyfriend who just happens to call NBA superstar LeBron James a personal friend (more on LeBron in a bit). Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognizable as Amy’s magazine editor. Brie Larson shows strong resolve as the sensible sister. Colin Quinn, best remembered for his years on Saturday Night Live as the “Weekend Update” host in the late 1990s, may be the best character outside of Amy herself. He is so lascivious with his devil may care attitude on the merits of love and relationships.
Trainwreck includes a bit of stunt casting with WWE superstar John Cena as a musclebound meathead that is confused about his own sexuality. The biggest celebrity catch, though, is LeBron James playing an exaggerated version of himself: a Dowton Abbey loving penny pincher. He gets a few good laughs in his scenes, which includes the most lopsided game of one-on-one basketball against Bill Hader.
Having been labeled “a little sexist” by Katherine Heigl as it pertains to how she and the female characters are portrayed in Knocked Up, Judd Apatow’s latest looks to change that perception. Trainwreck is not perfect. It suffers from a long second act and jokes that miss the mark, including those made up on the spot and recorded for post production, as per-usual with most Apatow productions. Nevertheless, the comedy works on account of Amy Schumer and the screenplay. While the title may scream disaster, the comedy doesn’t jump the rails.
Director: Judd Apatow Writer(s): Amy Schumer Notable Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, John Cena, LeBron James
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!