3 / 5 stars
By the time Trainwreck reaches its crowd-pleasing finale, you have to be thinking: Which scenes would I have cut from this film? This can be a common consideration when watching a movie directed by Judd Apatow, whose last four comedies all clock in at two-plus hours. Yes, Trainwreck is a celebratory showcase of It Girl Amy Schumer’s ample writing and acting talents, but there’s no mistaking this relationship comedy for anything but an Apatow project: it has more honesty and depth than most comedies, but carries excess weight. Comedies should be lean; Trainwreck’s a Big Mac.
Despite feeling heavy, Trainwreck does hold an audience’s interest with nearly every scene (the trick is hanging on to that when all the scenes are, you know, strung together). Schumer, who eats this movie whole, showcases ferocious timing and an unexpected acting range that Apatow obviously wants to take advantage of. Thanks to her, and the goes-down-easy performance of co-star Bill Hader (pardon the joke), Trainwreck is, at moments, really good.
Schumer pulls back the covers (whoops) on what it means to be sexually active as a single woman, and not always like yourself for it in the morning. When it’s time to fall in love, Schumer has her character lean in hard as an actor should, and try to parse what all of it means. Her character (named Amy) is more promiscuous and more immature than the average real-life women she’s standing in for but this is a comedy. The exaggeration works.
The scenes without Schumer are the ones Apatow tends to milk. The most egregious offenses involve Hader – completely capable as the straight man – and his best pal, LeBron James, playing a cheery version of himself. I appreciate that Schumer and Apatow have gender-flipped the best friend convention of romantic films, but Apatow seems a little too in love with having the NBA’s premier superstar in his film. LeBron exists here to give us insight to Aaron (Hader), to help the audience know what he’s thinking. But the one-on-one scenes with Hader and James – which actually include a game of One-on-One – have that loose Apatow goofiness that make each moment feel too long, too riffy. The aggregate effect is tiring.
But James is just an ancillary player here and Hader’s not too far from that category either. Schumer is the actor in control, playing her role with abandon. She wallows in regrettable, sloppy one night stands, and sheds plenty of tears over family and her own shortcomings. Most apparent is that Schumer is a master of natural sex appeal, something she regularly and skillfully works into her standup performances. The fact that her Trainwreck character shares her name only works to keep her more enthusiastic male fans thinking she could be the chick they see on stage – and now on screen.
As expected in an Apatow film, Trainwreck has a parade of talented comic actors including Colin Quinn as Amy’s dad (jeez, I’m getting old) and Dave Attell as the homeless man who plays Greek chorus outside her apartment. But Schumer is the real star here, good enough to trade barbs with the superb Brie Larson as her sister, sure enough to play a grown woman as both strong and vulnerable, and commanding enough to overcome a weakly structured film.