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Directed by Judd Apatow, Trainwreck is romantic comedy that utilizes its two leads very well, especially Schumer who shines as the aggressively out-of-sorts young woman who not only can’t find true love, but simply isn’t looking for it. Hopelessly selfish when it comes to her pleasures and comfort, the men in her life are disposable, save for her ‘boyfriend’ Steven (John Cena), an enormous overly sensitive bodybuilder who wants more from his girlfriend but certainly won’t get it, and her father Gordon (Collin Quinn), a pugnacious man suffering from MS and living in an assisted living home. She works for a rag magazine that strives for controversy and ends up getting a story about a sports medicine doctor that she doesn’t want, but upon meeting the charming man, is a little torn, because first, he’s a man and she’s able to get from them what she wants and, second, she genuinely likes him, which would seem normal but for her represents a massive paradigm shift. The two are legitimately attracted to each other and the plot centers on her overcoming a number of increasingly larger hurdles that shine a light on her destructive attitude and the lonely future she has to look forward to if she doesn’t recognize and deal with her behavior. There are some truly great moments here, as is expected from Apatow, who has a gift for creating powerfully authentic situations and giving them just right touch of human comedy without crossing over into more straight-forward genre fare. There is a strong dynamic between the leads, as Hader continues to deliver one outstanding performance after another. And Schumer, who is best known for her stand up routines and successful comedy television series, is wonderful, bringing depth to a character that would otherwise be one-dimensional and quirky. While much of the story works very well, including several strong interactions between Aaron and Amy that raise the plot above the expected, the film looses its footing and eventually surrenders to the same routines of those it should have transcended.
Where it Fails (Spoilers): There are two moments in particular that weaken Trainwreck, the first being a scene that tries to be something different but instead of being that, it is exactly what it wants not to be. All romantic comedies have the montage, a short (or sometimes not) clip, accompanied by a classic pop song (typically a few decades old) that features a progressive sequences of events that illustrate the character(s) growth (usually preceding the conflict) and Trainwreck does as well, even though it has Amy narrate the moments with observational humor as if watching herself on home video. She comments on the traditional images with sarcasm, bemoaning with embarrassment what she and Aaron have done as a happy couple and we’re supposed to laugh and think how different it is, even if it tries to end with something shocking. What’s disappointing about it is how it really has no place and doesn’t fit with the rest of the film that despite its description, isn’t always a comedy. It feels forced and while Apatow is very good at combing great emotion with humor, this one doesn’t work.
But what’s worse is Apatow’s indulgence in ending the film with the now overdone public display of affection. This tired trope, where one member of the lovelorn couple, who are broken up even though everyone knows they will be together, creates or spontaneously makes a spectacle to win back their lover. In Trainwreck, it comes after Amy makes her obligatory change and unbeknownst to anyone, has had time to plan, organize, and rehearse a complex dance routine with the New York Knicks City Dancers. She dresses up in the women’s cheerleading squad outfits and performs in a choreographed dance at center court, which naturally ends with the her and Aaron kissing (or rather splayed out on a mat) while the Jumbotron zeroes in. At least the arena is empty.
The entire sequence comes out of nowhere, and with the jabs at the montage mentioned earlier, feels like a cave in as the last ten minutes are nothing but routine where the film had worked so hard to be anything but. Yes, a scene with Marv Albert, Matthew Broderick, Steffi Graf, and LeBron James is equally awkward and out of left field, but at least it passes quickly. This dance and the forced ending trip up the truly great relationship the two had so well established and is so far out of character for Amy, it actually weakens her rather than strengthens her personality, as the growth she experiences would never be about cheerleading to show her development, even if it’s the payoff to a setup made a half hour in the film earlier. Amy comes to terms with much in her life because of two key incidents, one being the loss of Aaron and the other which I won’t spoil, but the exaggerated lengths to which she would have to go and do to accomplish the dancing are well beyond what she would need to do to demonstrate this to Aaron, a man already in love with her. It is a scene strictly made for the audience, who have come (regrettably) to expect these wild displays in this genre and unfortunately, even in the gifted hands of Apatow, with two talented actors who could have taken this to such better heights, it wrecks what would have otherwise been a great film.
And great is the right word. With a cast that includes Brie Larson and (again) an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, the movie has tremendous potential. Much like Apatow’s 40-Year-Old Virgin, it is the humanity to it, the closeness we feel to the characters, that makes it works so well, and it is because of that, when it falters, it disappoints all the more. Worthy of look, Schumer and Hader elevate the material but the story, which takes plenty of chances, refuses to see it through to the end.
Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson