Monday, August 24, 2015

"Trainwreck" Review: Standard Rom-Com Material Infused With A Hyersterical Dose Of Amy Schumer


Amy Schumer has done the stand up comedy circuit and even has her very own skit comedy show on Comedy Central, so naturally it was time for her to take a stab at front lining her very own feature film. So, in the grand tradition of introducing a new comedic talent, Trainwreck is a rather hollow reworking of the over used Hollywood rom com genre (for women it is usually a romantic comedy and for men it is usually being partnered up with someone in a buddy cop style formula) that is light, inoffensive and is geared towards showcasing said star's notable traits. While not exactly original nor the best offering from director Judd Apatow, Trainwreck does show off the immense talents of its star which means job well done. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:   
Projector Type: 2D Digital             
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime:  2 hr 2 min
Studio: Universal Pictures
Release Date: July 17, 2015

Biases:  
Loves: Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin
Likes: Funny People, This is 40, Amy Schumer, Bill Hader
Neutral:  Generic rom com tropes
Hates: Movies shouldn't "feel" long
Amy Schumer's star power potential?: Hopefully her next project takes more risks.


We first meet Amy (Amy Schumer) along with her sister Kim (Brie Larson) as children just as their father (Colin Quinn) explains to them why he is divorcing their mother telling them that monogamy isn't a realistic thing, that two people aren't meant to be together forever. So as you might expect that bit of philosophy dictates Amy's adult life where she now lives the attachment free life her father would be proud of. Busy jumping from one bed to the next, Amy isn't in it for the long haul, her philosophy is hit it then quit it which her current muscle bound boyfriend Steven (John Cena) isn't too happy with. Amy's life is about to hit a major roadblock however when her job at the men's magazine S'nuff assigns her to interview acclaimed sports Doctor Aaron Connors (Bill Hader) who dares to show her that monogamy might not be so bad after all.

For as many cliches that Schumer (who wrote the script) and director Judd Apatow (40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, This Is 40) shoehorned into this almost painfully predictable rom com, it also goes against the grain in some interesting and even some surprising ways that allow you to forgive it for many of its sins. You will be hard pressed not to see where this film is going from the moment Amy meets Aaron, but thankfully that is sidelined by what can only be Schumer's influences along with her total lack of vanity. This is a woman who is happy the way she is and nobody is gonna tell her any different, and that mentality seeps its way into not only Schumer's character but the entire script.


First of all, this is a very funny movie. Not so much a laugh a minute or any real gut laughs (all though John Cena's performance may induce uncontrollable fits of laughter), but more like occassional laughs that help break up what is essentially a drama based story about a woman on the brink who discovers the meaning of life through a relationship she just wasn't ready for. It is a rom com through and through with all the bells and whistles such as friends and family on the sidelines to give helpful advice or the occassional comic relief (provided here with great effect by a surprisingly solid Lebron James) along with all the highs (the impossibly perfect few months of the relationship) and lows (the hallowed moment when one of them decides to call it off after a disagreement) and the eventual reuniting at the very end to remind us that love is hard but if you stick with it you will be rewarded.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of that, it does distract from the appeal of what the film does so differently and successfully than most other films in the genre, which is provide a deeply flawed and almost tragic female protagonist in place of the usual bubbly female figures that populate them. The character of Amy is an alcoholic loner who uses men and disposes of them like yesterday's news. The thought of having a long lasting relationship or even having kids repulses her. She even goes so far as to be the unfaithful one in the relationship where she proceeds to justify her actions in a series of cold and calculated decisions which often leaves her alone and kind of pathetic. This isn't Jennifer Aniston looking for love in all the wrong places or Meg Ryan doubting she is marrying the right guy, this is a self destructive individual who is in deep need of being saved.


Here is the other place the film surprises, which is with the role of the leading man. Bill Hader has long been the supporting guy in a number or roles (especially Judd Apatow productions) and not someone whom exudes male sexuality exactly or fits the mold usually associated with the Matthew McConaughey's of the world which makes him a difficult person to picture as the male lead in a rom com. But that is also why he is such the perfect choice, just like the character of Amy (with Schumer eschewing the skinny and cute stereotype) Hader is the anti-rom com guy making their coupling something of a perfect storm. His casting works perfectly in conjunction with Amy's politically incorrect interpretation of the modern day single woman which makes their relationship not only feel right but feel downright real at times. You really can't imagine these two with anyone else which is something most other standard rom coms get wrong.

If there is anything wrong with Trainwreck besides the predictability of the genre it finds itself in, it's that some of Judd Apatow's tendencies rear their ugly head from time to time. Forever the king of the long cut version of all his films, Apatow always lets his films run between 20 to 30 minutes longer than they usually should. Although every story beat, every laugh and every performance is earned here, there are some scenes and characters that could have been left on the cutting room floor and no one would miss a thing. Any time the film feels as though it is starting to lose focus (which happens whenever Amy or Aaron are just hanging out and talking bulls**t with their friends) you can start to feel the length of the 2 hour runtime, but whenever the focus is shifted back to our main couple things always pick back up.


Lastly, and this one isn't necessarily a negative point but more a point of warning, there comes a point near the middle of the film where it literally ceases being a comedy. It transforms into full on melodrama after a particular unfunny incident occurs and while most filmmakers would use that as a quick and easy way to create a turning point for the characters and story to kickstart into the third act, that turn takes an awfully long time to reach as our characters spend what feels like an eternity wallowing around (where in reality it was likely only 10 to 15 minutes of screen time). But that is the problem, in films like this every minute counts and if done right a minute can feel like a second and if done wrong a minute can seem like an hour and Trainwreck can sometimes feel an hour too long if you aren't ready for it.

Trainwreck is a starring vehicle for Amy Schumer, meaning it lives and it dies by two factors. The first being whether or not you like Amy Schumer and the second being whether you like her as an actor? It is impossible for this reviewer to tell you whether or not the answer is yes or no to those questions for you, but what can be said is that the film, slightly overlong as it might be, is anything but a trainwreck. It has a solid cast, a proven director who is skilled at telling these types of stories and it showcases perfectly the many talents of star Amy Schumer who might not be everyone's cup of tea but still proves she can headline a feature film and bring something new to the table at the same time. It may not be the best in its genre, but Trainwreck is sure to entertain those looking for a different sort of rom com experience without veering too far off the proven path.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

Trainwreck is one of those films that will be remembered either as the movie that introduced the world to Amy Schumer or as the only movie that Amy Schumer starred in. Hopefully the former is the real outcome as she shows a lot of promise and hopefully whatever project she chooses next doesn't play it so safe and we see her blossom into the star we only see hints of in Trainwreck.

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