“Monogamy isn’t realistic”
Here I thought I could blame the editor for why Judd Apatow‘s films have been lackluster and overlong since The 40-Year-Old Virgin only to discover his latestTrainwreck is the first of his theatrical quintet not in part handled by Brent White. Instead we have William Kerr, Peck Prior, and Paul Zucker: three people who either failed to explain that a scene shouldn’t remain in the final cut just because it’s funny or three people who ultimately were ignored and/or sequentially replaced by one another. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Lebron James was pretty great as love interest Aaron’s (Bill Hader) best bud. However, it isn’t hard to see you could cut him completely, lose nothing, and help alleviate the unnecessarily bloated runtime. He literally spends three minutes defending Cleveland just because he’s Lebron James.
It’s the kind of gag that star Amy Schumer‘s script is rife with, where your initial chuckle turns to a smile before you’re left with nothing but an awkward feeling that instinctively points your eyes at the watch you are not wearing. I really hoped she could breathe new life into Apatow, but Trainwreck is more of the same. I’d go so far as saying that despite my somewhat regular laughter throughout, the comedy bits were its weakest part. To me things are firing on all cylinders when the bottom drops out emotionally. Give me the scenes where Amy (Schumer) and Kim (Brie Larson) are quietly disagreeing about which parent caused their broken home. Give me the authentic fight brewing from the moment Amy and Aaron start dating that explodes into chaos. That’s where Schumer is best.
I’m not familiar with her comedy routine/show, but her standoffish snark gets old. It doesn’t help that half the jokes hinge on a pop culture reference wherein the punch line is her explaining said reference. Talk about grinding things to a standstill of awkward silences. There are so many cameos and bit parts played by familiar faces that you’d think a lull in the action would be impossible, but the “more is less” rule applies. One-note roles like Amy’s insensitive boss (played splendidly by Tilda Swinton) don’t need to pop up three more times to supply the exact same shtick as before. And if we already have Lebron earning so much screentime to attempt to self-deprecatingly mock his financial worth despite coming off smug instead, we don’t need Amar’e Stoudemire too. Simplify and give Lebron the bad knee.
Repetition is not a good thing, especially when the character is meant to be and succeeds in being so unlikeable. Schumer is great in the role and really pulls off the out-of-touch ignorance to how horrible a person she is. When boy-toy Steven (John Cena who will live in infamy for his dirty pillow talk) tells her she’s mean and she quietly whispers disagreement to herself, you legitimately feel sorry for her because she doesn’t realize the truth yet. Or at least she won’t yet acknowledge it. Meeting Aaron as a result of her job writing a piece about his exploits as the “It” Sports Medicine surgeon—Amy works for a sexist, leech on common decency magazine—is exactly what she needs to see love is possible. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it is real.
And this is where I found Trainwreck a success. The character of Amy doesn’t instantly transform. Everything that’s made her into the philanderer she is—in part because of a hilarious opening scene with Dad (Colin Quinn) comparing monogamy to only playing with one doll the rest of his very young daughters’ lives—cannot just melt away. Her defenses are up, her insecurity turns little things into huge ones, and her only answer to conflict is avoiding it altogether or pushing it away. When the cracks start to show in her seemingly idyllic romance with Aaron, Schumer gets the aftermath one hundred percent correct. Add the sister doing exactly what she doesn’t believe she’s “good enough” to do and a father who embraced not doing those things purposefully and you get a complex character in need of rebirth.
I only wish there wasn’t so much fluff on the journey to that awakening. Why does a fake movie with Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei blatantly mocking independent sensibilities have to keep showing up? We don’t need to see what Cena and Schumer are watching just because they’re in a movie theatre. Why do we need to care about Amy’s coworkers played by Randall Park, Jon Glaser, and Vanessa Bayer after their first humorous scene when they add nothing but empty smirks? Even the inclusion of intern Donald (Ezra Miller) is labored at best. Sure it culminates in yet another entertaining sex scene, but the particulars are merely taboo for taboo sake while adding little to the character’s progression countless other circumstances already provide. At least Dave Attell‘s panhandler was a welcome sight each time he returned.
Am I wrong or should comedies not need comic relief? The goal is to be funny in your poignancy, not to be so devoid of faith in your work that you infuse skits to fill the gaps. This could be a great film if you cut thirty minutes of nonsense and really make it the family dramedy it is beneath the excess. The heart in the little moments with Kim’s husband (Mike Birbiglia) and stepson (Evan Brinkman) sustains the jokes they excel at being fodder for as well as the emotional revelations they inevitably trigger. Putting a doctor whose friends with professional athletes together with a journalist who recognizes Lebron as “that basketball player” is a cute scenario to evolve from, not a safety net for more cameos that become crutches. Apatow needs scissors for Christmas this year.
Rating: R | Runtime: 125 minutes | Release Date: July 17th, 2015 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Judd Apatow
Writer(s): Amy Schumer