Movie review: Trainwreck

(image via IMP Awards)
(image via IMP Awards)

 

If you’ve ever been a recipient of Cupid’s mostly-accurate arrow, you would be among the first to admit there is rarely anything “old” or boring above love.

But the movie genre that celebrates this most delectable, transportive and logic-scrambling of life events? Ah well, that is another thing entirely.

Romantic comedies aka rom-coms have a hit-and-miss success rate when it comes to putting love in all its gloriously wonderful, messy splendour up on the big screen and Trainwreck, written by comedy “It Girl” Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, is no exception.

That it mostly succeeds in its quest to make a rom-com with a difference, hampered though it is by oddly-discordant pacing, an overly-long running time, and an all too quick “We’re in love” narrative momentum underscores just how much it does get right.

There’s no denying for a start that Amy Schumer, whose mix of raunch and stinging, insightful social commentary has made Inside Amy Schumer almost required viewing, is a consistently, very funny woman with her finger most firmly on the social zeitgeist.

She brings this comedic A-game to Trainwreck, a film that takes as its premise the idea that monogamy is not a realistic life philosophy for anyone, especially not for children of divorce like Amy and Kim Townsend (Schumer and Brie Larson respectively) whose dad’s admonitions about the perils of coupling up resonate long and hard for elder sibling Amy.

Her life is one artfully-acrobatic leap from one bed to another with the only constant men in her life, her irascible dad Gordon (Colin Quinn) and sort of, not really boyfriend Steven (John Cena) who may or may not have a preference for his own sex.

In contrast, younger sister is blissfully in love with husband Tom (Mike Birbiglia), and enjoying being step mom to his socially-awkward son Allister (Evan Brinkman).

Close in their own way, the two sisters are polar opposites when it comes to love and marriage, both reacting to their father’s bitter post-divorce advice to never fall in love – realised in an hilarious opening scene that is worth the price of admission all on its own – in entirely different ways.

 

 

This all changes of course when Amy is commissioned by her ballsy, take-no-prisoners, push the envelope editor Dianna (Tilda Swinton in great form) to write a feature piece on handsome, doctor to the sports stars Dr. Aaron Connors (Bill Hader) who she then quickly, and to her horror, then delight, the horror, then … you get the idea … falls in love with, egged by Connor’s best friend and real life basketball superstar LeBron James who plays a comedically-heightened version of himself.

It’s at this point, and for much of the film that Trainwreck does its best to balance being both the anti-rom com – it’s crude, out there and happy to rain down scorn on the tropes of the genre – and an out-and-out classic rom-com, bringing together all the tropes close and hugging them like they’re long lost Prince Charmings come a-calling with the glass slipper.

This leads, as you might expect, to a weirdly off-kilter feel to proceedings.

There are times when the film bubbles along much as you expect with an Apatow comedy – it’s worth noting this is first film the noted comedy director has made that he hasn’t also written – all raunchy, on-the-edge and punctuated by some quite intelligent observations about the human condition.

These partly take the form of quite serious conversations between Amy and her dad, with whom she is close to a point, and some moments of reasonably profound tension between Amy and Kim.

Points to Schumer and Apatow for injecting some dramatic seriousness into the plot, which is generally executed well in and of itself, but it causes Trainwreck to wobble and shudder a little till its finds its sweet-and-raunchy momentum again.

 

 

Well mostly.

The reality is that for all its hitting of both the anti-rom-com and rom-com bullseyes – the ending particularly is as romantically and hilariously over the top as you could hope for – it does go for too long at times feeling like a series of stand-up comedy set pieces.

It makes sense when you consider that it is Schumer’s TV stock-in-trade but it doesn’t always work for the movie as a whole.

Part of that stems from the fact that it simply goes on a little too long.

Not in a “surreptitiously glance at your watch” kind of way but more in a “does that really need to be in the movie?” sense.

You have to admire Schumer’s audacity in trying to be all things to all rom-com men and women, but in the end, it results in a film that for all its appeal, is trying to wear too many creative hats at once.

That it gets away with it is largely due to it being, at heart, a very sweet, appropriately raunchy (even with the most out there lines serve a purpose), insightful film that does a nice job of navigating the intricacies of love and life in the early twenty first century.

Even with all its extra narrative baggage, it mostly succeeds thanks to Schumer’s way with comedic ad-libbing, the chemistry she enjoys with Hader, who plays the quiet, sensible, non-doormat sweet guy to perfection, some killer oneliners, and a host of supporting players, particularly LeBron James, who hit their notes every time.

In the end, and what an ending it is after a slightly mediocre third act, Trainwreck gets more right than it does wrong, which is, if you think about it, just like love itself.

 

 

 

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