2015 was Amy Schumer’s breakthrough year. The writer/actress/comedienne has been building a following thanks to her critically acclaimed and Emmy Award winning series, Inside Amy Schumer, and her uproarious stand up concerts. Her show and her comedy mix satire and society’s views on women to great success and make her one of the most important entertainers working. It was only a matter of time before Schumer crossed over to leading lady in a motion picture, and she does it with ease in Trainwreck.
Schumer also wrote this grown-up rom com and she was blessed with the guiding hand of director Judd Apatow, the comedy guru who directed The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up and produced classics such as Bridesmaids, Talladega Nights and Superbad. What I’ve always liked about Apatow’s projects is that he’s never been afraid to go very dark with the plot and he allows his characters to go through a gamut of emotions if it stays true to the story. This choice is not always successful, but at least he’s trying something different than just stoner and gross-out humor. This is a trait that Schumer shares with the director and the pairing of these two makes for a remarkable movie experience.
Schumer stars as Amy, a thirtysomething single woman who works at one of those trendy men’s magazines more interested in T&A than hard hitting journalism. Amy hopes to land a vacant editor position but has to complete one last assignment from her shallow boss (Tilda Swinton, brilliant) before she gets offered the job. All she has to do is write a profile on an orthopedic surgeon to star athletes, Dr. Aaron Conners, played with the right mix of naiveté, warmth and fortitude by Bill Hader.
Sparks fly as soon as they meet and the romantically inexperienced doctor soon falls for Amy. Problem is Amy was taught at an early age by her philandering father (Colin Quinn) that monogamy is impossible. This lesson, given to Amy and her younger sister, Kim, came when they were little girls and Dad was leaving the family. Amy took his advice to heart and she’s never had a lasting relationship. A steady stream of one night stands walks thought her front door, always kicked out before the spooning can begin.
Unaware of Amy’s difficulties with intimacy, Aaron pursues her. His kindness and charm win her over and their casual affair develops into a true romance and relationship. Unprepared for the emotions she’s feeling, Amy struggles to make it work, but finds the risk worth it as she falls in love with Aaron.
Trainwreck follows many of the typical conventions of the romantic comedy formula, which is fine. Most movies follow a formula, it’s the execution that makes them special, and Trainwreck is one hell of well-made movie. Apatow’s direction is crisp and the story never seems to drag, as some of his more recent films have. The story does have some dark, honest moments, in particular when dealing with Amy and Kim’s dad, who is stricken with multiple sclerosis and resides in an assisted living home. However, the brightness of the story and the pitch perfect cast carry you through the heavier moments, making the story feel authentic.
Schumer and Hader are wonderful together. They come across as genuine people (as opposed to Hollywood stars trying to act genuine). Schumer is so full of life that it’s easy to follow her on her funny, sad and confused journey. It’s an honest performance and Schumer definitely makes Amy relatable. Hader, best known for his manic characters in films and SNL, is wonderful as Aaron and I’m surprised he’s not a leading man in more rom coms. Much like Ben Stiller and Jason Segel, Hader brings an everyman quality to the movie that is often missing in studio released rom coms.
Schumer and Hader are supported by a splendid cast of actors. The aforementioned Swinton and SNL’s Vanessa Bayer provide ample laughs as Amy’s co-workers, as does up and comer Ezra Miller playing a dim, but eager intern. Colin Quinn does some of his best acting as Amy and Kim’s dad. His exchanges with screen legend Norman Lloyd (100 years old!) are priceless. WWE star Jon Cena crushes his scenes and provides an emotional wallop to Amy’s life. He’s great. And Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, playing a meta version of himself, steals every scene he’s in as Aaron’s best friend.
The shining star in the supporting cast is Brie Larson as Kim. Thanks to the attention she’s receiving for her performance in this fall’s drama, Room, audiences are just now getting to see her range as an actress. The ease in which she slips into the skin of Kim and the naturalness she brings to this role lifts Schumer to another level when they’re on screen together. It’s not just how she delivers lines but also how she reacts to her co-stars that makes her the brightest jewel in a stellar cast.
This is Judd Apatow’s best movie in years. Funny People fell flat for me and This is 40 failed to deliver any laughs or real drama. Perhaps working from someone else’s script allowed him to relax? Whatever the case, Trainwreck is one of his most effortless movies and it’s definitely one of the best comedies of the year. Schumer couldn’t have picked a better director to oversee her major league debut. The two seem so in sync that I hope that they make more movies together.
The Blu-ray of Trainwreck comes with two versions of the film, the theatrical and the unrated. Bonus features include deleted scenes, a gag reel, Norman Lloyd and Method Man discussing the Wu Tang Clan (yes, you read that right), commentary by Apatow and Schumer, and “The Dogwalker” the film within the film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Marissa Tomei.