Trainwreck finds Amy Schumer stepping off the small screen and making her feature film debut as both a lead actress and writer. She has brought many of her small screen friends along for the ride as well as some well placed celebrity cameos.
Schumer’s writing and Apatow’s directorial voice are at the forefront here, in a story about a young woman who is at a crossroads in her life. Like many young people she finds herself sleeping around and avoiding commitment, abusing alcohol and the emotions of her family. We see her meet a young doctor and have her ideas about love challenged while simultaneously dealing with an ailing father who was the originator of her anti-monogamy identity. The first half of the film presents us with a traditional romantic setup subverted to fit changing gender roles in society. The back half of the film unfortunately takes us back to the stone age.
The problem here is that Schumer’s voice has been diluted by the continued slide of Apatow’s career. It has been said that Schumer catered the script to Apatow’s sensibilities to ensure he made it and it’s easy to see the scenes where it likely happened. The runtime of 2 hours could easily have been cut as more and more fringe ideas are given screen time and we are given a bloated coming of age drama which entirely subverts the quick start brash humour of the first 30 minutes. Apatow has let his personal life sink into the film too much here. We are given Brie Larson as Amy’s sister who is seen to be doing the morally right thing, married a safe man and adopted his child and is building a nuclear family. In contrast Amy is a harlot and can’t be happy as a young woman with a focus on her job and having fun until she has a man to fill that something missing in her life. It’s a forward thinking film, and Schumer’s comedy stylings about liberated female sexuality are here, but the plot continues to reinforce social norms and falls into a predictable rom-com formula.
Trainwreck is another watermark in comedy in 2015. Taking a similarly crass and confrontational vibe to its one liners it plays celebrities stereotypes against the likes of Lebron James and John Cena who put in highlight performances not for their acting ability but for the words they are made to say. Schumer knows how to construct a joke and how to play a situation for laughs, dragging out a bit and escalating it beyond where others run dry. I found myself laughing so shockingly that it echoed through the theatre. I believe Schumer can be a great voice in comedy and perhaps if she can step away from the watering down of a director like Apatow we could see some classic films from her soon.
Trainwreck is funny, its just really unsatisfying as the two hour run time and social convention reinforces the slump that Apatow is in. While it can be viewed as revolutionary, 2014’s Obvious Girl had Jenny Slate in a much more confronting and hilarious role without the need to play to a predictable end. Trainwreck is packed with funny moments from unlikable characters, essential cameos and non-essential plot devices. This would be another generic rom-com without the writing of Schumer, so maybe at least we can look on the positives of this funny but ineffective film and see a new star in ascension.