Sunday, July 19, 2015

Film Review: Trainwreck

I love Judd Apatow's directorial debut: The 40-Year-Old Virgin.  It was crass and vulgar, but it was wildly funny and buried within it was actually a strong message about saving yourself for marriage.  I remember I got into a long discussion with a devoutly Catholic friend of mine who was horrified at my praise of the film because she thought the vulgar images and situations were morally corrosive.

Well Judd Apatow has once again delivered a movie that is sexually graphic and tawdry, but idealizes the traditional ideas of romance and family.

Trainwreck is written by "of-the-moment" sensation Amy Schumer, in which she also stars as a young woman named Amy who gets drunk, gets high, and has a long series of one-night-stands.  This is in stark contrast to her younger sister Kim (a fantastic Brie Larson) who is married to a very boring man with a nerdy stepson and living in traditional domestic bliss that Amy reviles.  Amy's world changes though when she assigned to interview an up and coming sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader), who is kind and thoughtful and has strong friendships with big name stars like LeBron James, who plays himself in the movie.  Amy is a "bad girl" and Aaron is straight-laced... you can see where this romantic odd couple is going

Be warned, this is a graphic movie to watch.  There is no frontal nudity, but the sex scenes are long and descriptive and rather icky.  The talk about all different kinds of sex is sometimes rather squirm-worthy and shocking, which is kind of the raison d'etre of Schumer.  So if those kinds of things are deal-breakers for you, I would avoid this movie.

The movie is also weirdly schizophrenic about its theme.  Throughout the movie, Schumer mocks all that the "normal" social things from cheerleading, to sports, to marriage, to actual romantic love.  She narrates the entire movie with a "don't judge me" attitude.  But the movie clearly shows Amy's life as ultimately unsatisfying and distasteful.  She is an awful person hiding behind snark.  But it is her relationship with Aaron that seems to be the only thing that brings out her humanity.  So traditional life is looked at as square, homophobic, and the like.  But Amy's life is empty and gross, and only embracing this traditional life can save it.

The performances are quite good by most of the cast.  Schumer is fantastic; even if I didn't enjoy a lot of her "bad girl" antics, she has real charisma and acting ability.  Hader does a very nice every-man in Aaron.  I particularly liked his reactions when Amy first makes a move on him and how unprepared he is for those attentions.  Larson, though, is horribly underused.  The more I watched her in the movie, the more I wished that the story was about her and not Amy.  And I was horribly surprised by Lebron James, who could deliver some excellent deadpan jokes.

  (On a side note, this is the first film where I've seen Ezra Miller who is cast in the big screen Justice League movie as the Flash.  Based on this movie, I am very, very worried).

The real problem with this movie is the length.  Comedy requires proper pacing, as the old saying goes "Timing is everything."  One of the reason The 40-Year-Old Virgin is so good is that every single scene is funny.  But every other Apatow movie tends to drag.  He adds scenes that are totally unnecessary and don't generate enough laughs to power the movie forward.  If you take 40 minutes out of this film it would work so much better.  There is even a dramatic subplot involving Amy's curmudgeony father (Colin Quinn) in a nursing home.

Because of this, instead of bouncing from joke to joke, there are long lulls, which is not good for a comedy.  Some of the jokes are funny, but most are mild.  (There is one line about an obscure 80's wrestler that had me rolling).  Despite this, the movie manages to stick the landing.  The last 10 minutes are actually charming, funny, and a bit heartwarming.  And the movie ends with one of my absolute favorite songs of all time that is criminally under-recognized as one of the greatest rock-love ballads of all time.

The friend I mentioned at the beginning of this review did not think that you could use raunchy humor like this to convey a good theme.  She believed that too much would get lost in translation and the message would be lost in moral corruption.  Trainwreck would not dissuade her from her thesis.

But there is some truth hidden deep within the muck.  Whether you want to take the time see for yourself is up to you.

2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.


  1. This was easily one of the worst films of the year and one of the worst of Apatow’s career.

  2. I agree but The 40 year old virgin was quite good.