Review: Trainwreck

Amy Schumer flips the script on rom-com cliches.

One of my favorite things about Trainwreck, the new romantic comedy written by and starring Amy Schumer is that it shows off the gifted actress and comedian at her raunchy, insightful, subversive best. In particular, it highlights her gift for embodying—with a mixture of affection and mockery—a certain kind of hard-partying, narcissistic, young(ish) woman who’s as smart as she is clueless.

Schumer plays a character named Amy, who drinks heavily, sleeps around, and has a morbid fear of commitment. In the opening scenes, a flashback to the 90s, we get a good sense of why. Her father (Colin Quinn), has just been kicked out by her mother and is pleading his case to Amy and her younger sister. “You love your dolls a lot, don’t you?” he says, as the girls nod sagely. “But what if you could only play with one doll for the rest of your life?”

As an adult, Amy’s sister (now played by Brie Larson) managed to rise above this cynical message—she’s married to a sweet, if slightly dull, guy (Mike Birbiglia) and has a nerdily precocious stepson (Evan Brinkman) who she loves. But Amy, who is closer to her father (now residing in an assisted living home with MS), never quite grew up, partying hard every night and rejecting overnight dates, spooning, and even the slightest whiff of commitment. (She has one regular sexual partner, a protein-shake-obsessed piece of man meat played amusingly by John Cena. Like most of the men in Amy’s life, he wants more than she’s willing to give him.)

Interestingly, as I was thinking about words to describe Schumer’s commitment-phobic character, I kept coming up with phrases used to describe men: “man-child,” “Peter Pan syndrome,” “Confirmed bachelor.” And that’s one of the beauties of Trainwreck. It flips the script on the kind of romance film—like Jerry Maguire or Knocked Up—where an irresponsible man is saved by the love of a good woman.

Amy’s been assigned to write a profile of sports injury surgeon Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) for S’Nuff, the Maxim-style magazine she works for, and they hit it off right away. He wants to court her, but she sleeps with him on the first date, as is her wont. (When he calls the next day, she assumes it’s a butt dial or that he’s possibly deranged.) Aaron is so self-possessed and so confident in his feelings for Amy—and hers for him—that he simply won’t take no for an answer. In his mind, the equation is simple: They like each other. They should be together.The film is Amy’s journey to a place where she agrees.

There are several good scenes at S’Nuff magazine—Tilda Swinton, nearly unrecognizable in a severe spray tan and feathered hair, is a hoot as Amy’s rude and misogynistic editor and Ezra Miller is on hand as a not-as-innocent-as-he-seems intern (and to provide the world’s least likely We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion). Aaron’s job allows him to have a credible friendship with none other than LeBron James, playing a Downton Abbey-loving, Cleveland-proselytizing, cheapskate version of himself. (LeBron is indeed very charming and game in the cleverly written role, but let’s not get carried away here—De Niro he ain’t.) The scenes involving Amy’s dad are both funny and surprisingly emotional, allowing Schumer to show off genuine acting chops.

Trainwreck is directed by Judd Apatow, and as is the case with all of his films, it has a loose structure that gives his actors room to shine but occasionally succumbs to flabbiness. An “intervention” that LeBron stages for Aaron featuring Marv Albert, Chris Evert, and Matthew Broderick, gives off the distinct sense that Apatow goes to cocktail parties, gets drunk, and starts handing out parts in his movies. Likewise, a scene at a Doctors Without Borders banquet struck me as a weak excuse to cast Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback Tony Romo.

But those are minor quibbles. Trainwreck is a complete blast. Even as it sends up rom-com clichés (“I hope this montage ends like Jonestown!” Amy quips over cutesy scenes of Amy and Aaron falling in love), it manages to be both seriously funny and genuinely romantic. Bill Hader plays it mostly straight and proves to be a surprisingly dreamy male lead. And as a longtime fan of Inside Amy Schumer, I’m thrilled that Schumer is “taking her talents”—to borrow a phrase from costar LeBron—to the big screen. Odds are, if you don’t like this movie, you won’t like her show. Also, it’s been nice knowing you, but we’ve grown apart.