Review: Trainwreck (2015)

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Trainwreck poster” by COMINGSOON.NET. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Inside Amy Schumer is one of those Comedy Central sketches that is a giant rabbit hole. Watching one four-minute sketch will lead you into watching about an hour more of her four-minute sketches. This show has won her an Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Writing for A Variety Series.  It is clear that she is an excellent performer and a talented writer. But acting and writing in a sketch show is one thing, a feature film, another. Can she manage to keep things going for an hour and 24 minutes?

A little well into the movie I realize that a lot of the parts feel like sketches. Not that I mind. This is where she excels. Events are set up in such a way that the audience starts to anticipate Amy’s hilarious quips and facial reactions. Just like one of her viral-ready segments, only less scathing, and surprisingly less raunchy. And under Judd Apatow’s direction the movie is kept from being too fragmentary, you know, like bunch of sketches just thrown together. Apatow’s loose directing style works well with Schumer’s script. But the question to be asked is: What does this movie do for the romantic comedy genre?

Trainwreck (2015) pretty much covers the same beats as your standard rom-com. Amy Townsend (Amy Schumer) is a men’s magazine writer enjoying a life of promiscuity, sleeping with a revolving door of guys. “Monogamy is not realistic.”, a mantra drilled into her brain at a young age by her scoundrel father. But things starts to change when she meets and falls for the charming sports doctor, Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), who also happens to be the subject of her magazine article. Will she self-destruct and blow the relationship to smithereens even before it begins?

This is a story we have heard many times over, with characters we are simply just too familiar with, they feel like a drag. But what keeps this from becoming one of those rom-coms made straight out of the Screenplay Recycling Factory is Amy Schumer’s writing and acting. Her screenplay manages to have subtle changes to some established rom-com conventions. The gender reversal is apparent. We get the perspective of a dysfunctional female lead instead of the usual man-child. True, this is not the first of its kind to do this. There’s Obvious Child (2014) and Bridesmaids (2011). But I find them few and far in between that they are only too welcome. And while you get the usual staples of the rom-com genre: lovey-dovey montages with voice overs and sitcom-ish background music, and a grand gesture, there is a little bit of self-awareness in them. But not to the point that the movie becomes a parody. There’s winking but not too much winking.

Amy Schumer is amazing at comedy but her dramatic range is surprisingly just as good. Her performance brings with it an emotional earnestness. The grand gesture I mentioned previously reeks of potential hokeyness but Amy’s performance is so honest, that the potential hokeyness of said scene remains only thus, a potential. Same goes for Bill Hader. I know the guy has range, The Skeleton Twins (2014) is proof of that, but who knew he could pull off being such an adorable leading man?

So yeah, Trainwreck is hardly revolutionary. But I think it is one of the good apples in what has become a rotten rom-com barrel plainly because the movie is just well written and well executed. It has great acting, two leads with chemistry and charisma, funny gags and quips. Did it make me laugh? Yes. Did it make me feel all warm and fuzzy? Yes. Did I cry? Yes. (Seriously, I did. I watched the ending twice.) Movies like Trainwreck tells us that the rom-com genre is far from being dead.

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