Amy Schumer’s new rom-com “Trainwreck” has more in common with “When Harry Met Sally…” and its ilk than you’d expect.
The new, hard-R rated film transfers the comedienne’s wild girl act to the big screen. Only the rom-com template hasn’t been altered much beyond the obvious. Now it’s the girl who fears commitment, not the wary-eyed fella. Schumer wrote and stars in the film, directed by comedy maestro Judd Apatow. Strip away the naughty bits, and they are legion here, and you’re left with a bitingly funny comedy that could use some serious editing.
Schumer stars as Amy, a writer who toils for a men’s magazine run by an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton. Amy has a “boyfriend” (a relaxed John Cena) but plays the field like an All-Star. When she interviews a sports doctor for her job she begins to question her dating tics. Aaron (Bill Hader) is smart, funny and endearing, and she adores spending time with him despite her randy urges.
Can she really settle for one man? And what about her father (a crusty Colin Quinn)? He set a terribly low standard for monogamy. Can she break free from that past, or should she dump Aaron and hit the bars with renewed vigor?
Apatow (“Knocked Up”) is a brilliant match for Schumer’s toxic take on love. Yet his chronic weaknesses (too-long final cuts, sappy subplots) take their toll on “Trainwreck.” Schumer may have written the script, but it feels like an Apatow exercise, right down to the rat-a-tat joke barrage. Most of the gags land, but they leave the script, and the audience, exhausted. What’s worse is how they ding the characters on display.
LeBron James is a hoot playing a cheaper, more sensitive version of himself. And watching him take a game of one-on-one with Aaron too seriously is to see his athleticism put to grand use. Yet the big-screen James can’t settle into a character. Nor can other small but key players in the film. They’re too busy trying to spit out the next killer line, consistency be darned. It’s exhausting, and it takes the film’s more genuine moments to the woodshed. So does a cameo-laden scene late in the film, the kind that should have been spiked after the first draft.
Schumer … manages to be appealing despite some pretty ugly behavior
Quinn is far better as Amy’s jerk of a role model. He’s unapologetic yet paternal, a tricky tightrope the veteran comic dashes along sans net. Had he been given another juicy scene we’d be hearing some Supporting Actor buzz.
And then there’s Schumer, who manages to be appealing despite some pretty ugly behavior. Yes, she’s emotionally stunted, but her lack of compassion threatens to unravel the film midway through. Good thing she’s a strong enough actress to send out an emotional SOS, pleading with us to be patient while she grows up.
“Trainwreck” takes gentle shots at marriage, showing Amy’s brother-in-law as a milquetoast partner in a bad strip mall haircut. The takeaway, however, is anything but progressive. True love means embracing a partner, warts and all.
That message isn’t buried beneath the film’s hedonistic trappings. “Trainwreck” lets Schumer and co. shout it from the rafters once the bed hopping finally stops.