Meet the rom-com’s drunk, foul-mouthed and slutty best friend. Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, LeBron James and Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton star in Trainwreck.
Cast of Characters:
Amy – Amy Schumer
Dr. Aaron Connors – Bill Hader
Kim – Brie Larson
Gordon – Colin Quinn
Steven – John Cena
Nikki – Vanessa Bayer
Donald – Ezra Miller
Tom – Mike Birbiglia
Noam – Dave Attell
Dianna – Tilda Swinton
LeBron James – Himself
Director – Judd Apatow
Screenplay – Amy Schumer
Producer – Judd Apatow & Barry Mendel
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
As children, Amy and her sister Kim were repeatedly told by their father Gordon (Colin Quinn) that monogamy is impossible. Nowadays, after years of clinging to that advice, Amy (Amy Schumer) has turned into a commitment-phobic woman, though one with at least a successful career as a journalist. Her sister Kim (Brie Larson), on the other hand, is now happily married to Tom (Mike Birbiglia) and enjoys playing mom to her new step-son Allister (Evan Brinkman).
When Amy is assigned to interview a professional sports doctor named Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), she begins to fall for him more and more. After keeping herself emotionally closed off to guy after guy after guy, she now finds herself having to face her fears of commitment.
Though I myself am only a casual fan of hers, I won’t deny that Amy Schumer is one of the hottest comics working right now, her popularity growing ever since her big break on Last Comic Standing in 2007. After a couple appearances on Comedy Central Roast, she finally got her own show on the network in 2013 titled Inside Amy Schumer. Now, with her popularity running hot, it’s no surprise she’s branching out into film, writing and starring in Trainwreck.
Schumer has popped up in minor film roles here and there, but this is her first big film opportunity and it’s quite a leading debut, delivering one of the funniest films this year and easily the funniest romantic comedy (though it’s not like the competition was heavy or anything). It helps to partner up with 21st century raunchy comedy king Judd Apatow (coming off the disappointing This Is 40), who knows this style of comedy better than most today, but Schumer’s script will and definitely should earn just as much praise, complementing the experienced director’s filmmaking touch so well.
Schumer and Apatow kick the doors open to Trainwreck with a bang, starting things off with a hysterically funny rant from former SNL alum Colin Quinn attempting to rationalize to his daughters (younger versions of Schumer and Brie Larson’s characters) his reason for divorcing their mommy in a way they understand by comparing it to them liking dolls, but to imagine if they could only play with one doll for the rest of their life.
“Sometimes you wanna play with your doll’s best friend… Sometimes you wanna play with the slightly overweight waitress doll.”
As the film progresses, the film loses a bit of its subversive edge and turns into more of a standard rom-com, leading into a climactic intervention that temporarily distracts from the grounded feel of the film (though I admit getting a couple laughs out of a certain cameo’s play-by-play of the event). But even as it ventures down a more predictable path, Schumer and Apatow keep the jokes coming.
The surprise here is the range Schumer shows with her performance. Yes, she can write jokes and do sketch comedy and has been successful at both, but film is a whole new ballgame, and delivering a performance that contains as much depth as she displays here is an even bigger task. Yet I was wholly impressed and my original concerns that this was gonna be her doing a two-hour standup schtick were proven wrong. Amy’s flawed but likeable, with Schumer and Apatow neither condemning her behavior nor excusing it when it’s clear she needs to grow up (familiar territory for the Knocked Up director). It’s a well-rounded performance that can make us laugh ourselves to tears over a tampon joke at one point, then switch gears and move us with a heartfelt eulogy without missing a beat.
Playing the Catherine Keener/Katherine Heigl role, Bill Hader continues his streak of wise acting choices (following The Skeleton Twins and Inside Out) with another funny and charming performance, even if it seems like his Dr. Aaron Connors is a little to perfect to be true. The wonderful Brie Larson, one of the finest young actresses there is today, is fantastic as Amy’s sister and shares a complex dynamic with Schumer that makes for some of the strongest scenes of the film.
Like any other Judd Apatow’s directed, Trainwreck is filled to the brim with as many hilarious second fiddles as can possibly be fit into one film, including a hilarious Colin Quinn, Mike Birbiglia, Dave Attell and an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton as Amy’s unapologetic ball-breaker boss (underneath the tan, eyeliner and long hair, I literally didn’t recognize it was Swinton until her name popped up during the end credits).
Most memorable amongst the supporting cast are LeBron James and John Cena, the latter having no problem poking fun at his WWE tough guy image. In full role-reversal, Judy Greer mode, James (who, full disclosure as an Orlando Magic fan, gave me fits while with the Miami Heat) is surprisingly good as Hader’s wisecracking rom-com sidekick, a role that typically would’ve probably gone to someone like Schumer.
Obviously, knowing the professions of both James and Cena, their bread and butter is entertaining audiences, though that doesn’t mean they’re the next Bill Murray. Maybe Apatow struck an oil well’s worth of humor within them just waiting to be tapped, or maybe they have the narrowest comedic range in the history of comedy (though holding your own opposite those with more comic experience like Hader and Schumer is no easy feat). Either way, it reflects extremely well on the ability Apatow’s always shown in drawing comedy out of his casts, and here he’s able to locate what these two are good at and take advantage of it.
I mean, he made Katherine Heigl funny. How hard can working with James and Cena be then?
Trainwreck follows the same trajectory that most, if not all, romantic comedies have followed, but the writing/directing punch of Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow provides plenty of subversive humor, sharp, biting dialogue and pitch-perfect chemistry between the cast members which makes the predictable journey greatly entertaining. Apatow, of course, has already placed his stamp on the comedy genre for most of the 21st century. It’s Schumer that shines the brightest here, and though she’s already a hit on Comedy Central, this highly crude but still pleasantly sweet rom-com gives her what could be the start of a promising film career.
I give Trainwreck an A- (★★★½).
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