Film Review of the Week: Trainwreck


Rated R, 128 minutes

LeBron James has taken his talents to the silver screen, and though he's only in a handful of scenes in Trainwreck, the Judd Apatow-directed, Amy Schumer-written rom-com out everywhere this weekend, he's still a bit of a scene stealer. Both co-star Bill Hader and Apatow himself, at the film's Akron, Ohio, premiere last week, attributed this not only to James' megastar status but to his charisma and God-given natural abilities. Schumer said she wrote James into the script because he was "literally the only athlete [she'd] ever heard of."

And though the local press corps around Cleveland will focus their coverage on James' involvement, the film revolves around Amy (Schumer), a magazine writer assigned to tackle a story about an up-and-coming sports physician, the brainy, good-hearted Aaron Connors (Hader). Because Amy professes an abject hatred of sports, her brash editor (Tilda Swinton, in full cockney) insists she take the piece, to expand her professional horizons and to audition for a coveted promotion.

Amy's life has reached what might be called a precipice. She's a self-identified "sexual girl" who sleeps around without remorse, much to the distress of her "ice-sculpture" boyfriend Steven (John Cena) and drinks and smokes a lot of booze and pot. On top of that, Amy and her sister Kim (Brie Larson) have put their sick and sports-obsessed father (Colin Quinn) into an assisted living facility, the cost of which has become a wedge that widens some fundamental philosophical disagreements they have regarding family and love.

The rom-com formula is pretty closely adhered to — conflict > love > new conflict > more love — and Connors' pro-sports connection serves as a reliable hook and backdrop, with some hit-or-miss gimmicks throughout. But in a script that revels in its characters and their largely improvised raunch on a scene-by-scene level, the larger plot points do often feel stale.

Still, the entree here is Schumer/Hader. Both actors are your classic sidekicks or supporting characters — Schumer should play the hot mess of a best friend, right? And Hader some dorky husband? — but it was Apatow who, after hearing Schumer on a radio show and pursuing her for a film, wanted them both in lead roles.

This is in fact the first feature film Apatow has directed for which he hasn't also written the script. And though his stamps are almost immediately visible — a wacky and riotous ensemble, a docile leading man, an inability to part with portions of long scenes and thus a longer-than-advisable run time — this feels much more like Schumer's baby than Apatow's. And Schumer, thanks in large part to the success of her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, has become a forceful voice on the comedy scene.

Her high-concept, sometimes absurdist, sketches on TV have forced viewers to confront some big issues and stereotypes about women. In Trainwreck, the big thing I find myself confronting is the fact that I'm really not a huge fan of her character. Her behavior, though for the most part really funny, is also for the most part really despicable. And the fact that Schumer's putting viewers on guard, inviting us to ask, e.g., whether our distaste is a result of societal double standards, is good. Generally speaking, the movie is too.

This review originally ran in the Cleveland Scene. It is reprinted with permission.

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