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Film Reviews Trainwreck: Amy Schumer’s rom-com feels like a laugh-out-loud compromise

Amy, played by Amy Schumer, on a date with Aaron, played by Bill Hader. Amy is a Manhattan journalist for a men’s magazine called S’Nuff, who parties a lot, sleeps with a string of hot guys and tells us about it in a wry, dry voice-over.

Mary Cybulski

3 out of 4 stars

Written by
Amy Schumer
Directed by
Judd Apatow
Starring
Amy Schumer, Bill Hader
Classification
18A
Country
USA
Language
English

Apart from being laugh-out-loud funny, a sure-fire test of the success of a comedy, Trainwreck leaves a few things to be desired – including the false advertising of the title.

The movie, directed by Judd Apatow and written by and starring Amy Schumer, stays on the familiar rom-com rails throughout, if it takes a few raunchy detours. Schumer plays a Manhattan journalist for a men's magazine called S'Nuff, who parties a lot, sleeps with a string of hot guys and tells us about it in a wry, dry voice-over. She's not as querulous as Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, or as concerned with body issues as Bridget Jones. In some circles, this might be called Living the Dream.

Amy's flaw is that she is romantically blocked, traumatized by a philandering dad (Colin Quinn), who, on the verge of divorce from their mom, explained to his two preteen daughters: "Monogamy isn't realistic," which he compares to the girls' need for the freedom to play with various dolls. In the process, he somehow thwarts his older daughter's chance at future happiness until, after a period of growth, it all ends in cheers and kisses.

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For followers of Schumer's sacred-cow-slaying TV sketch-comedy series Inside Amy Schumer, this will be tough to swallow: It's like hearing that Jon Stewart has a secret admiration for Donald Trump, or Michael Moore thinks General Motors is an ethical investment. Skewering romantic fantasies and delicate pieties is kind of Schumer's thing. When did she turn into such a … kitten?

Whether you look at Trainwreck as Schumer selling out or buying in, it feels like a compromise. More specifically, the compromise feels guided by Apatow, who is in something of a return to broadly popular form after such quasi-autobiographical films as This Is 40 and Funny People. Trainwreck is consistent with his shaggily constructed, raunchy-but-cute dramatic comedies that strive hard to be all things to all people, and it should probably be a smash.

After establishing Amy's job world, an idiotic Maxim-style publication, and her use 'em and lose 'em attitude toward men, we get to the personal stuff. Along with her younger, happily married sister, Kim (Brie Larson), Amy is struggling to put her grumpy father, who now has advanced multiple sclerosis, into an expensive care facility. She could get a promotion by writing a take down on Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a star sports-medicine doctor with a roster of elite athletes, including NBA stars LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire. As is her habit, Amy soon seduces the doctor (a shy type who hasn't had sex in six years), and for the rest of the film's running time they find reasons why they can't be together before they inevitably are.

The change is the gender-role switch. After their first night, the commitment-phobic Amy wonders why she has these uncomfortable new things called "emotions." The instantly love-struck Aaron gets support from his sensitive big friend (LeBron James, as a Downton Abbey-loving romantic).

As the straight man and occasional punching bag, Hader plays a slightly goofy saint who not only mends multimillion-dollar athletes but gets awards from Doctors Without Borders. And while we might occasionally be puzzled why he finds this hypercritical lush so appealing, his character is so impossibly nice that he compels her to see the issue is hers: "What's wrong with you that you would want to go out with me?" she asks.

Within that frame, there's a smorgasbord of small character turns that are delights. The staff at S'Nuff are led by Tilda Swinton as an Anna Wintour-ish boss with a short temper and shorter attention span, urging her staff to "pitch her hard" with stories such as: "You're not gay – she's boring." Swinton wears so much bronze makeup that, to steal a line from novelist Lorrie Moore, "she looks like an oxidization experiment."

There's a great bit of physical comedy, too, when James and Hader play a game of one on one – though, given the height difference, it feels more like three on one. A scene where Schumer watches knee surgery works on a slow build, as the operation-room observation window is suddenly decorated with a splat of pea-green puke.

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The Apatow instinct for doing variations on the same scene hasn't abated, though. A series of jokes about Amy's muscle-bound boy toy (John Cena) and his poorly repressed homosexual urges, for instance, is more annoying than funny. And one sequence that could be scratched altogether is an "intervention" involving various sports celebrities, including sportscaster Marv Albert, tennis great Chris Evert and, inexplicably, actor Matthew Broderick.

There's a funny movie in Trainwreck, but you may have to sift through a lot of debris to find it.

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