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TRAINWRECK (review)

trainwreckTRAINWRECK

Written by Amy Schumer / Directed by Judd Apatow / Starring Amy Schumer, Bill Hader and LeBron James

Young Amy & Kim: Monogamy is not realistic.

Their father: Again!

Young Amy & Kim: Monogamy is not realistic.

Despite being borderline sexist when he sang it, John Mayer had it right when he warned fathers to be good to their daughters. The father / daughter relationship has always been a delicate and highly influential one, and while that dynamic is not explicitly explored in Judd Apatow’s latest film, TRAINWRECK, its impact resonates throughout every minute of it. Not only does this allow Apatow to return to the great character comedy he helped spearhead with hits like THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP, but it also provides for an abundance of hilarity that is punctuated by some very real and genuinely touching moments.

Amy Schumer, who also wrote the film, plays Amy, a magazine writer on track for a promotion at a magazine called Snuff, that is as morally bankrupt as you would expect. (Side note: Snuff is run by Tilda Swinton, who is barely recognizable and hysterical). As far as she’s concerned, her life is all figured out. She has the Manhattan apartment, the cushy dream job and her love life is just where she wants it too. She has a hot man to see movies with (played by wrestler, John Cena, who is actually pretty darn funny himself) and she sleeps with whomever she likes on the side to keep things fresh. Most of her conquests are had high or drunk and stumbling home in the morning is more a badge of honour than an embarrassment for her. Her father would be proud and he is.

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TRAINWRECK could live up to its name if Apatow and Schumer didn’t ground it properly. Amy would come off as a disaster mess of a human being who, after meeting and falling for a man, in this case sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader), a totally selfless contrast to her totally selfish persona, realizes the error of her ways and reforms, thus sending a message to waste cases everywhere to get their acts together or risk the worst fate imaginable, dying alone. Fortunately, this is not the case at all. Amy is a well rounded character, and not a one dimensional caricature, which makes this story and this lesson specifically about her instead of some preachy, heteronormative propaganda piece.

Amy’s “trainwreck” is played off of her sister Kim (Brie Larson), who is enjoying her married life with a husband (Mike Birbiglia), big suburban home, step son who calls her mother (Evan Brinkmann) and another baby on the way. The juxtaposition of these two completely opposite reactions to their upbringings may seem cliched to some but really isn’t that far fetched. What makes it even more real is how they both see the other as completely off base with their life choices and what ties it all together is how they differ on how to care for their aging father (Colin Quinn). The direct impact of how their father’s life choices has shaped their lives is quite evident and endears us to each of them for very different reasons.

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And while this may sound like a bit of a downer, it is necessary to allow for the comedy to fly as high as it does. Too many comedies focus on cheap jokes and visual gags but don’t bother with anything resembling substance to make them relatable. For me, the laughs are usually heartier when I can see parts of myself or experiences I’ve had in the film itself. And while I would not call myself a total train wreck, I can very easily relate to how difficult the dating scene is or how complex family relationship can be. Seeing yourself reflected in the film allows you to laugh at yourself as well as the people on screen so the entire experience is heightened. And make no mistake, TRAINWRECK is a very funny movie. There is the occasional joke that falls flat but for the most part I was laughing so hard that I knew I was missing other jokes but just couldn’t stop. I’ll just have to see it again, I guess.

TRAINWRECK is a standout debut for Schumer, in both her first lead screen role and her first role as feature screenwriter. I should note at this point that I am a big Schumer fan, very big. Not that I think she is infallible but if her brazenly direct brand of humour is not for you, there won’t be much to connect with here, but if you were at all curious about this up and coming comedienne, then you are in for immense laughter, bordering on the rioutous at times. And as much as this is Schumer’s game to win or lose, Apatow deserves credit for crafting his most consistent and focused film in years. At the very least, he deserves kudos for helping LeBron James, who plays himself and Hader’s best friend in the film, turn in a pretty funny performance. Still, this is Schumer’s show at the end of the day and she shines sublime.

4 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Trainwreck?

2 Comments

  1. Spot on, Joseph. Thanks for putting it into words.

    Bruce Lamesse

  2. Very ecstatic about this review. I can’t wait to see it!

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