Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trainwreck

3.5/4

Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, LeBron James, Tilda Swinton, Colin Quinn

Rated R for Strong Sexual Content, Nudity, Language and Some Drug Use

Judd Apatow has made a career out of mixing hilarious and raunchy humor with touching romance and emotional honesty.  While I enjoyed "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up," this is a much more successful film.  The comedy is less hit-and-miss, and the romance is not only highly attuned, but more effective.  The chemistry between the two leads burns.

Shortly after telling his daughters that he and his wife are splitting up, Gordon (Quinn) tells them that fidelity is a sham and that sleeping with different people is entirely normal.  It's a lesson that Amy (Schumer) takes to heart.  She sleeps with any man possessing the correct body parts.  And I mean any.  So one day she is sent to do an article on a new hotshot sports surgeon (Hader) and much to her surprise, she starts to like the guy.  Aaron is kind and sensitive, a little dorky, but a sweetie.  That throws Amy's perfectly disorganized life into a tailspin, and she has to decide if she wants to grow up or lose the one guy who means something to her.

Typically, romantic comedies are fantasies: they sell a happy ever after with the two lovebirds either getting hitched or going off into the sunset (usually metaphorically speaking).  "Trainwreck," like the best entries in the genre, uses this formula but adds more honesty.  It knows that love isn't easy, especially when you've spent your whole life avoiding it.  It also knows that love is complicated and messy.  Amy Schumer's script pays attention to how romance can mess with your head and your life, and how and why a person could push away the people she loves.  This is a far more realistic, but no less funny, look at love than in other romantic comedies (including the aforementioned Judd Apatow pictures).

For months, people have been proclaiming Amy Schumer as the "next big thing" in Hollywood.  While she doesn't have the "it" factor, or at least not as much as some other starlets, there's no denying that she's got talent.  She can be in the middle of a heavy dramatic scene and insert a one-liner like it was nothing.  Clearly, Schumer isn't going away, and that's good news.

Her co-star, Bill Hader, is also very good.  As the slightly nerdy doctor, Aaron is virtually impossible not to like.  He's book smart, but a little clumsy with women, which gives him a dose of vulnerability.  He's likable, but not a saint.  Most importantly, he has excellent chemistry with Schumer.  These two light up the screen in a way that few couples do.

They're surrounded by a fine supporting cast.  Brie Larson is very good as Amy's younger sister Kim.  Kim is married, which is something Amy makes fun of her for.  Their relationship feels real because Schumer's script refuses to deal in caricatures.  Both Amy and Kim are well-developed and feel like sisters; they may be at each other's throats from time to time, but they still love each other.  Tilda Swinton is totally unrecognizable as Amy's self-absorbed boss Dianna.  Swinton rarely gets comic roles, and she appears to be enjoying herself immensely in one.  Special mention has to go to John Cena, whose performance as Steven, Amy's sort-of boyfriend of questionable sexuality, earns both laughs and pathos.  I wouldn't have minded spending more time with him.  LeBron James is less comfortable on screen, however.

Like all of Apatow's films, "Trainwreck" runs too long.  Some scenes, particularly at the beginning, run for far longer than they need to.  Improvisation is fine, but only when it's kept in check.  Once Amy and Aaron get together, the film takes off.  It gets better and better that by the time the end credits roll, you'll be wishing you could spend more time with these characters.

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