Judd Apatow is well known for his raunchy romantic comedies like The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. But his films have also tended to be a little self indulgent, and overlong, with running times in excess of two hours, and consequently they have tended to meander a little in the middle section. Trainwreck is one of Apatow’s best films, and it mixes the crass humour with some endearing and touching moments, and has a consistency of tone that has been missing from some of his later films like Funny People and This is 40. It is surprisingly sweet natured at times and not the cinematic trainwreck implied by the title. Instead the title refers to the emotional wreck and chaotic relationships of the central character Amy Johnson (Amy Schumer), a reporter who works at a really awful magazine called S’nuff.
Trainwreck is the first major film role for popular comic Schumer (best known for her TV series Inside Amy Schumer), and this star vehicle provides a great breakthrough into the movies. Schumer has a bold, brassy and unapologetically in your face style and an edgy style of humour that has appeal. As with films like the superb Bridesmaids, Trainwreck brings a decidedly feminist take to the raunchy romantic comedy, a genre that has been the preserve of Apatow and his ilk.
Amy’s cynical views on relationships have been reinforced by her disillusioned and divorced father, alcoholic serial womaniser Gordon (Colin Quinn), whose belief that monogamy is unrealistic has shaped her approach to romance. Amy also has a reluctance to commit to a long term relationship; instead she indulges in a succession of empty one night stands (although she rarely lets a man sleep over for the whole night) and comes across as sexually aggressive at times.
But then her acerbic and demanding editor Diana (an unrecogniseable but very funny Tilda Swinton in a role written with her in mind) assigns her the task of writing a hatchet job on Aaron Conners (SNL‘s Bill Hader), a respected sports medicine specialist who works with a number of sporting teams including the New York Knicks. Her first meeting with Conners is rather awkward, but soon sparks fly between the pair. It is obvious from early on that this pair deserve to be together, but in typical romantic comedy fashion there are a number of obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is her own jaded views on commitment.
Schumer has co-written the very funny script, and are some semi-autobiographical and self-effacing touches to her character here. She manages to bring some vulnerability to her performance that capture Amy’s insecurities and gives us some insights into her flawed character, and the role plays to her strengths. Schumer and Hader are not your typical romantic leads, but there is some great chemistry between the pair that also adds to the movie’s many charms. Hader has never really presented himself as a romantic lead before, but he is touching and sensitive here, and is actually quite good.
Apatow and Schumer gain some big laughs from the ensemble supporting cast. Wrestler John Cena is also very funny in a supporting role as Steven, Amy’s empty headed jock on-again/off again lover, a buff body builder who seems confused about his sexuality, especially when in bed. Tilda Swinton is hilarious as Amy’s acerbic editor given to inappropriate and cutting remarks. Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) has a small role as Donald, an over-eager intern at the magazine, while Randall Park (The Interview) and Jon Glaser bring a comic dynamic to their roles as a couple of bickering fellow journalists. Brie Larson plays Amy’s sister Kim, who is married and personality wise seems the opposite of Amy, and the pair are at odds over the care needed for their ailing father. Quinn is also very good as Amy’s outspoken and curmudgeonly father who now lives in an assisted care facility, but his intolerance for his fellow residents and his often biting and politically incorrect observations are quite funny.
The film is also loaded with a number of cameos, including Chris Evert and Matthew Broderick, who appear as themselves, that add authenticity to the backdrop of the film. Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei pop up briefly during The Dogwalker, a film that Amy and Steven watch in the cinema. Basketball star Lebron James also appears as himself and brings a surprisingly self-effacing style to his role as Cooper’s best friend who offers romantic advice. He is a pleasant surprise and his endearing and unaffected performance here, and his comic timing, suggests he may well have a future in movies after his sporting career is finished.
Trainwreck doesn’t completely avoid the familiar tropes of the rom-com or the opposites-attract formula, but somehow here the material seems fresh and funny as Schumer brings a distinctive voice to the genre. Again it is a little too long for a romcom, but at least there are many laugh out loud moments throughout the script. Trainwreck is a great partnership between writer Schumer and director Apatow whose comic sensibilities and take on life and the romcom seem pretty similar. Hopefully she will make more movies in the future.
Trainwreck is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and on-demand.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television