It takes some guts to call a movie Trainwreck.
Let’s face it, if the movie turns out to stink, the reviews—or at least the headlines—pretty much write themselves. But thankfully the new Amy Schumer comedy mostly stays on the rails throughout, and despite being a surprisingly paint-by-the-numbers post-modern romantic comedy, it provides plenty of laughs and a solid vehicle for Schumer’s first major film role.
I will confess up front to not being a fan of the hit (or is it just hip?) comedy series Inside Amy Schumer…not because I don’t like the show, but because I really haven’t seen it. However, the bits and pieces I have caught of her skits and standup on social media and via various podcasts confirm that she is a true comedic talent. Her subversively incisive feminist takes on modern culture, gender roles, and 21st century womanhood put her into the Stewart-Colbert category of cultural commentator, with the rare ability to unpack an idea or issue completely, lay it bare, and expose it for all its absurdity and hypocrisy. All while making us collapse in fits of laughter.
That’s why, for all its laughs, Trainwreck ends up to be just a bit of a disappointment.
Amy Schumer plays Amy, a young-ish New York career gal frozen somewhere between crazy party girl and successful adulthood. By day she writes for a men’s magazine called S’Nuff, and by night she embraces a bacchanalian lifestyle that generally ends with some sort of disastrous sexual encounter…either with a random stranger or her own muscle-bound, sexually-confused boyfriend. When we first meet Amy, you see, she is just a young girl, and her father is trying to explain to her and her sister why he is leaving the family. Both girls have favorite dolls, he explains, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to play with other dolls, right? After running down all the possible doll types that they—or he—might want to play with, he sums things up by making the girls repeat the lesson over and over again: “Monogamy isn’t realistic.” And that remains Amy’s mantra until she falls for a successful sports surgeon (a terrific post-Saturday Night Live Bill Hader)…and you can pretty much paint in the numbers from there.
Trainwreck does have plenty of highs.
Schumer is terrific from start to finish. Her writing and portrayal of a young woman who is both comfortable in her own skin and still starting to recognize that maybe it’s time to grow up is legitimately spot-on. And her hilarious sexcapades-gone-wrong are downright hilarious. At the same time, Trainwreck focuses as much on Amy’s family relationships—primarily between her and her sister and father—as on her romantic quest, delivering a handful of truly touching moments and one full-on tear-jerker.
But there are just too many lows.
As Hader’s best friend, LeBron James plays a pretty funny version of himself: fanatical about Cleveland, hopelessly romantic, and outrageously cheap. But he really can’t act. And when the film feels the need to expand its universe of sports-personalities-as-themselves by bringing together James, Chris Evert, Marv Albert, and Matthew Broderick (what?) for a key late scene, the result is, well, a total train wreck.
More than the comedic misses, though, the ultimate trajectory of the movie and its sappy conclusion are a bit of a head-scratcher.
All that said, it’s probably unfair to judge Trainwreck on anything other than what it is.
Trainwreck is a comedy, and it’s funny.
And that’s good enough for a Friday night.