Movie Review: Trainwreck (2015)

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Trainwreck is a dangerous title for a movie because there’s always the risk that it’ll turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fortunately for Judd Apatow and star comedian Amy Schumer, the film has turned out to be the opposite of its name, cruising past expectations for an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

And I can definitely understand the appeal. The film is a star vehicle for Schumer, who is following in the footsteps of comedianness like Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in getting an opportunity to break into the mainstream. Schumer is self-deprecating, edgy, raunchy, overtly sexual and an expert at making people uncomfortable, and if you like her style of humour you’ll likely enjoy this film.

The other section of the market the film targets is Judd Apatow fans. He’s been associated with just about every “dramedy” over the last decade, but he’s only really directed a handful of movies — The 40-year-old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, This is 40 and now Trainwreck. A lot of people love how he blends edgy comedy with serious dramatic themes, and now looking through this list I have to admit I am a bigger fan than I thought I was (it’s all those other crap movies which he produced that dragged him down in my mind).

For me, Trainwreck lies somewhere in the middle of Apatow’s movies, which is a little strange considering there are a lot of things I like about it. I like that Amy Schumer makes for a very unconventional protagonist — she’s crass, she’s promiscuous, she likes to drink, and she’s not as skinny or attractive as typical Hollywood female leads (even among the comedians) — which makes for a experience not a lot of us are used to. I’m a big fan of Bill Hader (especially after seeing him in The Skeleton Twins just a couple of months ago) and it’s also interesting to see him — also atypical in many ways — play the romantic lead in a film. On top of that, LeBron James makes his film debut as himself, and shocks because he has a sizable supporting role as opposed to just a cameo — and he’s actually a pretty good actor and quite funny.

The plot is as follows. Amy (Amy Schumer), works at a men’s magazine and gets forced to do a profile on sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) by her boss (Tilda Swinton). Having been raised by a father (Colin Quinn) who doesn’t believe in monogamy, she finds it difficult to have a relationship with a man that’s not purely sexual. Though she had just been dating a beefcake who is obviously homosexual (wrestler John Cena), she soon finds herself falling for Conners and becoming just like her more stable sister (Brie Larson), a cliche she has always avoided. But is she willing to change her ways and take a risk to find happiness?

The premise is nothing groundbreaking and feels quite familiar, though usually it’s from the male perspective. Still, I’m surprised by how many people there are calling Trainwreck an “anti-romcom”. Yes, the jokes are sharper, smarter and often very funny, but at the end of the day the film uncontrollably steers toward romcom tropes and typical Apatow character development arcs — you know, the break-up lull just before the grand realisation spurring the character growth needed for the lovers to live happily ever after.

In this sense, Trainwreck is somewhat overrated. It’s not the revolutionary romcom or Apatow dramedy some have made it out to be. And if you know Schumer’s comedy you’ll know she can come across as a little racist (I don’t think she crosses the line though), which can be fine in a standup routine but offend people in a movie scenario. Having said that, I easily cracked the six-laugh quota for a good comedy while watching the film and there were even a couple of times when I laughed as hard as I have for any Apatow movie, no mean feat considering the majority of laughs came from improvised lines and off-the-cuff remarks as opposed to elaborately planned jokes.

Then there’s the LeBron factor. He definitely didn’t choke this time and held his own against some of the most popular comedians in the world. I don’t want to raise expectations too high because it’s still an athlete playing a caricature of himself, though it’s safe to say he blows Shaq’s Kazaam out of the water. Clutch performance. He might not be “da real MVP”, but LeBron certainly deserves to be on the All-Rookie Team.

It was also good to see Amare Stoudemire play himself as one of Dr Conner’s parents, especially considering that he was willing to be in a storyline in which he needs, um, career-saving knee surgery (again). There are plenty of other eye-catching cameos, from Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei to Marv Albert, Chris Evert, Tony Romo and Matthew Broderick. The good thing is that none of these felt like they were forced into the film for the sake of there being a lot of celebrity cameos.

As with all Apatow movies, Trainwreck is about 15-20 minutes too long, and there are dramatic scenes that drag on. While it may not be the most well-rounded of films, when it comes to delivering laughs and comedy from a woman’s perspective, Trainwreck is anything but. It may not have been as good as it could have been, but it’s still better than the majority of comedies and romcoms that get released these days.

3.5 stars out of 5

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