Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, LeBron James, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton, Randall Park. Written by Amy Schumer; directed by Judd Apatow.
Amy is a writer for a Maxim-like magazine, and because she hates sports, her editor assigns her to a story about a very successful surgeon who specializes in sports-related leg injuries. The surgeon’s name is Aaron, and he’s so good at what he does that his patients, including LeBron James, become his friends, and he is greeted at Knicks games by all the players. He’s clearly a really nice guy, but he doesn’t seem to have much time or energy for dating. Amy has her own issues: at a very young age, her parents divorced, her father explaining to Amy and her sister Kim that the reason for the divorce is that monogamy doesn’t work. Amy takes it to heart, and although as a grown-up she has a steady boyfriend (a cartoonishly hilarious John Cena as a musclebound meathead), the relationship is open, and Amy has an active and varied sex life.
Amy gets to know Aaron while interviewing him for the article, and while Aaron seems to see in her the woman he’s always wanted, Amy seems to view him as a sex partner she also likes hanging out with. The self-destructive lifestyle she’s curated for herself makes it impossible for her to accept a truly loving relationship, but she can’t help the growing feelings she has.
Amy Schumer (the actor, not the character) is one of the most important voices in comedy these past few years, a feminist voice that plays by her own rules while working within a male-dominated profession. I say this with no irony or hyperbole: Amy Schumer is the emerging Taylor Swift of comedy. She challenges expectations, calls out hypocrisy, and repeatedly zigs when even her closest observers think she’s going to zag. It says something that this is the first film directed by Judd Apatow that he did not at least co-write. Today’s leading director of comic film broke character in deciding to work with her.
Yet Schumer and Apatow seem to favor the same aesthetic: each of them is clever and crass in a way that has you looking over your shoulder to see if your parents or kids are within earshot because what you just heard was filthy, but the creative raunchiness is really just a different palate of colors for a story that pretty much stays in the lines. Sometimes it works really, really well, as with The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but usually, as with This is 40 and, alas, Trainwreck, it feels a little empty and unsatisfying. Despite some really excellent pieces and some creative moments, Trainwreck doesn’t earn its emotional payoff honestly. Scenes with Amy’s father (Colin Quinn) and sister (Brie Larson) are well done and quite moving, but the film expects that to carry over to the romantic storyline, and it simply doesn’t.
We want Amy and Aaron to connect in a meaningful, lasting way, but how and why they do is never satisfactorily established, and that can mean everything in a romantic comedy. It’s a genre that is largely connect-the-dots, but if that last dot isn’t earned, it doesn’t matter that the final picture is a duck: it’s a dishonest duck, a duck that’s never earned.
Apatow has a habit of working with combinations of the same people from movie to movie, which bodes well for future projects. Another shot with the same cast and writer could be brilliant, even groundbreaking, and Schumer is a perfect candidate to make that happen. I want to see more of the thinking that birthed an intervention involving Chris Evert, Matthew Broderick, LeBron James, and Marv Albert, because that’s a hilarious concept. But man, it takes a lot to pull that off and tell a good story, and Trainwreck, while interesting and entertaining, doesn’t quite do that.