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March 23, 2016

Trainwreck

by Franz Patrick


Trainwreck (2015)
★★ / ★★★★

“Trainwreck,” written by Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, is a comedy that could have benefited from discipline. There are laughs to be had here, especially during the first thirty to forty-five minutes, but there are also a lot of downtime where characters bemoan problems that are neither profound nor very amusing. It feels forced, tired, desperate for would-be character development. Thus, what results is a two-hour film that feels much longer. This is an example of a comedy that should have had a running time of only eighty to ninety minutes.

“Monogamy isn’t realistic,” is a mantra that stuck with nine-year-old Amy after her father (Colin Quinn) and mother separate. Years later, adult Amy (Amy Schumer), who works for a magazine in New York City, finds it difficult to maintain a relationship although she is quite capable of no strings attached hookups—so capable that she has developed quite a reputation. But when Amy is assigned to write a scathing piece about a sports physician on the rise (Bill Hader), something in her feels the need to reevaluate her current lifestyle.

The first third is strong, a joy to sit through, because there is an aggressiveness to the humor. It is—at least initially—a sex comedy that prides itself as one. Profanity is abound and there are guest cameos that surprise but do not distract. We learn about Amy as a woman with a healthy sexual appetite, as a co-worker in a cutthroat industry, as a sister to a more traditional Kim (Brie Larson), and as a person who might just have a problem with alcohol. It is daring and refreshing until the expected machinery of the romantic comedy genre begins to take over a very promising piece of work.

Schemer and Hader share some physical chemistry, but their characters are a bore together most of the time. Perhaps this is due to the weakness in the script. It does not seem to understand the labor that goes into real relationships. However, it is well-versed in the sort of exchanges that only happen in the movies. Just about every time Amy and the doctor disagree or get into an argument, the material shirks from showing the real truths, pains, and hardships of trying to make a relationship work. Notice the sheer inanity and lightness of the final scene. Is that how real couples mend their wounds?

Thus, what results is picture that lacks dramatic gravity. Notice that when Amy and Dr. Conner break up, it is difficult to care. Of course we know they must end up together in the end—this is not the point. The fact that we root for them all the way and the couple tries to sustain what they have together is what matters.

Someone needs to tell Apatow that films are rarely able to sustain a two-hour running time. “Trainwreck,” like its heroine, is at its best when it gets right to the point of what it wishes to communicate. And just when we are convinced it is defiant in following an established formula, the refreshing elements begin to wither away as Amy finds her man.

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