Friday, July 17, 2015

Movie Review: "Trainwreck" (2015)

© Universal Pictures

Amy Schumer has a relatable vulnerability with unquestionable comedic timing. Director Judd Apatow knew putting a Katherine Heigl-type in this movie would destroy it, and no one can perform Schumer's material better than Amy herself. She's a monster talent, which certainly isn't news to anybody these days. She plays her role with flaws and intelligence.

Schumer stars as Amy, a writer for a sleazy men's magazine who was raised to spit on the idea of monogamy by her cheater father, Gordon (Colin Quinn). Her younger sister, Kim (Brie Larsen), has gone the traditional route and nailed down a dorky husband and nerdy step-son, all while fielding the 'black sheep' derision she receives from Dad and Big Sis. Amy has her own set of relationship rules she lives by: never commit, and never sleep over. When she's challenged to write an expose on sport's medicine for the magazine, she meets Aaron (Bill Hader), an innocent M.D. who might make her change her ways—so long as she can get past the idea that falling in love isn't sign of mental illness.

There's a lot of danger in leaning so hard into movie-Amy's unlikability. As a protagonist, she's strong, but selfish and occasionally unsympathetic. The reason this risk in character pays off is that she's never pushed into being a cartoon—much to my surprise, the prat-fall/slapstick comedy Apatow often falls prey to is kept to a bare minimum. The real comedy is situational, relying heavily on timing and delivery. Schumer and Hader are masters, but the secondary characters played by Mike Birbiglia, Larson, and cantankerous Colin Quinn fill in any holes perfectly. They're no amateurs, as it turns out, and even the comedians among them play the straight and emotional fantastically.

The athletes have unexpected comedic impact, especially LeBron James. Don't mistake this for the usual desperate promotional cameo. The guy has an important role to play, and guess what? He's actually good. Really good. What could have ended up as a total misfire and distraction instead served the plot and the level of humor well. Even WWE wrestler John Cena's role as Amy's burly homo-curious boyfriend is impressive. Apatow and team made every effort to bring in star athletic talent without sacrificing the script's quality. All of the comedy surrounding them is then heightened by Amy's casual disdain for sports.

The movie isn't just funny. It's surprisingly touching and real. There are moments that are desperately sad, some that are happily exhilarating, and I found myself shedding tears on more than one occasion as a result. Schumer isn't afraid to let the laughter turn melancholic, and she certainly knows how to balance comedy with a romance that you can take seriously. It also helps that she's an actress who can let her co-workers be funny.

Admittedly, there are sequences the movie could do without, particularly the movie-within-a-movie joke that relied too much on its own stupidity and the cameos to make us laugh, which it didn't. Tilda Swinton also makes another unrecognizable appearance as an actual human being, who, as Amy's sociopathic boss, had a few good moments before her shtick got old.

Despite these few unnecessary inclusions, Trainwreck elicited the most full-theater laughter I've heard so far this year. There is a type of humor for everybody here, and if you're already a fan of Schumer's voice, this will be right up your alley. It's unique not just in its protagonist, but in its approach to women's sexuality in general. It also managed to get me to like the song "Uptown Girl," which I never thought was possible.

Rating: ★★★★ / 5 stars

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