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‘Trainwreck’: Film Review

4:37 AM PDT 3/16/2015 by John DeFore

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Amy Schumer plays a woman who’s nearly ready to give up her ramblin’ ways for Bill Hader.

Cutting through many of the easy signifiers found in bad-behavior comedies to get at what it actually feels like to be an intimacy-phobic mess, Trainwreck finds Judd Apatow putting his directing chops in service of Amy Schumer‘s deeply felt but cracklingly funny screenplay.

Starring as a woman with, let’s say, a well-diversified love life who is disturbed to find herself spending more than one evening with the same man, Schumer is more than credible in the kind of role usually associated with men, making fun of her character’s distrust of love while showing how honestly she comes by it. It will be interesting to see how this picture fares commercially compared to Apatow’s tales of similarly stunted young men: It’s in the same league in terms of laughs, its romance works as well or better, and there’s less fat on it than Apatow sometimes allows. What could keep it from being a hit, aside from double standards Americans apply to the sex lives of men and women?

Schumer’s character, also named Amy, is a child of divorce whose father (Colin Quinn) taught her at an early age that “monogamy isn’t realistic.” While her sister Kim (Brie Larson) outgrew that lesson, marrying a man who had a precocious kid from a previous relationship, Amy took it to heart, going home with all comers and generally staying sober enough to flee long before dawn. (If you blacked out and had to make the walk of shame back to Manhattan with commuters on the Staten Island Ferry, you might do the same.)

Amy is more than fine with this lifestyle, and her workplace enables her callousness. She’s a writer for a douchey mag called S’NUFF , where a typical headline reads “You Call These Tits?” (A transformed Tilda Swinton , who looks like she’s been sandblasted and dipped in preservative chemicals, is frighteningly effective as her soulless editor.)

Assigned to do a feature on Aaron (Bill Hader ), a surgeon who specializes in rebuilding injured athletes, the sports-averse Amy is wary. But he interviews her more than vice versa in their first encounter, and before long their conversations are happening over dinner, then drinks, then in a shared cab, where Amy startles Aaron by telling the cabbie they’ll be making not two stops but one.

After that first night, we’re in a rom-com where the roles are reversed: Amy puzzles over her desire to see Aaron again, while he gets support from a best pal who’s thrilled to see he has finally met someone. (That best pal is LeBron James, one of a few celebs who continue the Apatow tradition of working famous nonactors into the cast. Fortunately, James is charming in the part, a penny-pinching Downton Abbey fan who is protective of Aaron’s emotions.)

Amy’s more pessimistic side is explored in scenes with her dad, who has multiple sclerosis and must live in an assisted care facility. (Centenarian Norman Lloyd, whose screen credits stretch back to Alfred Hitchcock‘s Saboteur in 1942, plays his most interesting neighbor.) Disagreements with Kim about Dad’s care are a window into Amy’s attitude toward the deeply flawed man and the way he helped shape the mess she became. While one scene on this front effortlessly becomes an eloquent tearjerker, Schumer’s script conveys the story’s psychological cause-and-effect without needing to express it in cliched dialogue . She’s much too busy squeezing in jokes and double entendres to waste words on that kind of thing.

Hader is mostly straight man here, radiating decency and patience even when Amy starts stumbling in their new relationship. Aaron is the kind of boyfriend with whom an I-need-to-be-angry woman really needs to get creative: “You go down on me too much!” she yells, grasping at straws, before warning him in a panic, “Don’t try to spin this into a reason for not going down on me.”

Schumer has never had anything like a leading film role, but self-revealing stand-up and a TV series have limbered her up for the job. If she doesn’t have quite the range of some other nascent stars Apatow has worked with, her writing makes up for it, and she’s comfortable enough with the director’s trademark improvisation that Trainwreck plays as if it were fully scripted. Structurally, this is one romance whose brief period of crisis emerges less from a need to generate false drama than from insight into a woman who has practiced being a bad girl for so long she can’t believe she’d be good for someone. And when that crisis resolves, we’re treated to one of the most surprising and charming dance numbers since Napoleon Dynamite.

Here’s hoping Schumer goes back to this well as quickly as Woody Allen, an influence she cheekily acknowledges in a midfilm montage.

Production companies: Apatow Productions, Universal Pictures
Cast: Amy Schumer , Bill Hader , Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton , LeBron James, Mike Birbiglia , John Cena, Dave Attell , Norman Lloyd
Director: Judd Apatow
Screenwriter: Amy Schumer
Producers: Judd Apatow , Barry Mendel
Executive producer: David Householter
Director of photography: Jody Lee Lipes
Production designer: Kevin Thompson
Costume designers: Jessica Albertson , Leesa Evans
Editors: William Kerr, Peck Prior, Paul Zucker

Music: Jon Brion

‘Trainwreck’: Film Review 4:37 AM PDT 3/16/2015 by John DeFore FACEBOOK TWITTER EMAIL ME YOUTUBE Amy Schumer plays a woman who’s nearly ready to give up her ramblin’

Trainwreck

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“Trainwreck” is the first Judd Apatow movie that’s made me cry. I’m just gonna put that out there. We’re all friends here.

The man who made his name a decade ago with the megahit raunchy bromances ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” has shown a softer side recently with the more earnest (and less successful) “Funny People” and “This Is 40.” Here, he’s made his most emotionally vulnerable film yet, with a deft balance of bawdy humor and blossoming heart.

It probably helps a great deal that this is the first movie Apatow directed but didn’t write. Perhaps there’s more of a system of checks and balances than we’ve ever seen before. “Trainwreck” is the first screenplay from the film’s star, Amy Schumer, who brings much of the irreverent vibe of her stand-up routine and her Comedy Central series, “Inside Amy Schumer,” to the big screen. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is too intimate or inappropriate. And no one escapes criticism, especially not herself.

The hugely likable actress further hones her slyly deadpan, brash style. As in her stand-up work, she’s never afraid to look foolish, from awkward sexual encounters to projectile vomiting to working up a sweat performing a complicated dance routine. But she also gets the chance to show real range here in several genuinely poignant scenes, including some beautiful and tender work with Bill Hader as her unlikely boyfriend and Colin Quinn as her unfiltered father.

Schumer, who grew up on Long Island and has a married sister named Kim and a father with multiple sclerosis, stars in “Trainwreck” as a Long Island native named Amy who has a married sister named Kim (Brie Larson) and a father with multiple sclerosis. Clearly, this is more personal than ever.

The film begins in snappy, brisk fashion in a flashback, as young Amy and her little sister are receiving some tough-love advice from their dad, who’s just informed them that he and their mom are divorcing: “Monogamy isn’t realistic.” Twenty-three years later, those three words remain her mantra. She sleeps with whomever she wants, whenever she wants, but they don’t get to sleep over. Outwardly, she radiates confidence, accomplishment and happiness. There will be no slut-shaming here. But she’s also a bit of a mess; in true Apatowian fashion, Amy wallows in the throes of arrested development, and she may have a teensy drinking problem.

But then she gets an assignment from her editor at “S’Nuff,” the stereotypical, dude-bro-party magazine where she works, to write a story about a Manhattan sports doctor who treats the nation’s top athletes. (A tan and fiercely eyelinered Tilda Swinton is unrecognizable as the blonde, mod goddess who’s Amy’s coldly driven boss. She provides an intriguing counterpoint to Schumer’s character as a strong, independent woman who’s also unapologetically unlikable.)

Her first meeting with Hader’s sweetly geeky Aaron Conners looks like it’ll be all business—Amy knows nothing about sports and can’t be bothered to pretend—but later that night, dinner leads to drinks and more, much more than she’d ever allowed herself to consider.

And so this is the central conflict of “Trainwreck”: Does Amy adhere to her long-held notions of resisting monogamy, or does she allow herself to give into the possibility of something truly new and scary? It’s a familiar rom-com dynamic, but the reversal of traditional on-screen gender roles—combined with Schumer and Hader’s easy chemistry—makes “Trainwreck” feel new and fresh.

Hader is surprisingly convincing as a romantic lead, even though he’s playing a character who isn’t exactly suave in sweeping her off her feet. There’s a deeply decent quality about him here reminiscent of a young Jack Lemmon, which is hugely appealing in its own way. He is guileless. He is everything she’s never had in a man before, and everything she’s never been herself. On the heels of his powerfully dramatic performance in last year’s great indie “The Skeleton Twins,” it’s a thrill to see this “ Saturday Night Live” alum find so many varied opportunities to spread his wings and show his range. He still gets to be funny, but in a much more understated way.

“Trainwreck” mostly has great energy as it bops along, revealing their burgeoning relationship and even acknowledging the hackneyed nature of the falling-in-love montage. Dave Attell is a welcome and frequent sight as the homeless man who stands on Amy’s corner, heckling passers-by and serving as the movie’s de facto Greek chorus. But like all Apatow movies, “Trainwreck” is overlong and features moments that clearly could have (and should have) been cut for a stronger, tighter final product, especially in the sluggish last third.

As Aaron’s star patient and best friend, LeBron James is kind of wonderful playing a version of himself who’s sensitive, analytical and strangely stingy. It’s an inspired casting choice. But a scene in which he, Chris Evert, Matthew Broderick and Marv Albert stage a middle-of-the-night intervention to help Aaron mend his broken heart grinds the movie’s momentum to a halt. It’s never as clever or funny as it aims to be; at the same time, Apatow may have felt that all these celebrities went to the trouble to shoot the scene, so how could he leave it on the cutting room floor? Similarly, a late moment involving Amy and Ezra Miller as the magazine’s eager intern feels weird and out of place.

Ultimately, “Trainwreck” isn’t as quite as subversive as it suggests at the outset. The grand finale is extraordinarily cheesy, albeit in a self-aware and entertaining way. But the movie finds its own place of peace, on its own terms, and every bit of it is earned. Don’t be ashamed if you find yourself getting a little choked up, too.

The reversal of traditional on-screen gender roles—combined with Schumer and Hader’s easy chemistry—makes Trainwreck feel new and fresh.