Trainwreck – Film Review

Trainwreck-posterSaw Trainwreck yesterday. It’s been forever since I watched a comedy at the cinema – I think my last one was the first Hangover movie – or a chick flick for that matter which wasn’t a costume drama. This one got good reviews and I’ve been hearing all sorts of raves about Amy Schumer in the last few months on the US-based entertainment sites, so I looked forward to it quite a bit. I walked out with some mixed feelings: while now I’m also happy to jump on the Amy Schumer bandwagon, the movie itself wasn’t as good as its leading lady. I’d go as far as to say it was pretty damn ordinary.

Amy is a 30-something woman (also called Amy) who’s got a job writing for a trashy men’s magazine, the kind that publishes articles like “You’re Not Gay – She’s Boring!”, and leads an uninhibited lifestyle of drinking, partying and countless one-night stands. She’s got a boyfriend too, though I wasn’t sure how we’re supposed to feel about her cheating on him, when he’s clearly wrong for her on so many levels. But her life changes when she meets Aaron, a sweet nerdy sports doctor who she might develop serious feelings for.

The movie is basically a gender reversal of so many romcoms where a man-child/playboy character eventually grows up, leaves his immature ways behind and is redeemed by the love of a good woman. Thing is, switching a male character for a female doesn’t make for a novel or daring approach when nothing else in the movie strays outside of the conventional romcom and plays out as predictably as it gets. The early scenes of Amy’s dalliances are heaps of fun to watch and they have the energy the rest of the movie often lacks. It kinda made me think of a historical novel about Mary Magdalene I once read, where my favourite parts were easily of Mary cavorting around at parties and orgies and it was actually a bit of a bummer when she ended up finding Jesus. At the same time though, while she has tons of sex there’s little indication that Amy actually enjoys it all that much, and her lifestyle is portrayed as the result of her being a damaged soul, rather than her simply being a young woman with a zesty libido (which would have been a far more daring take). There’s nothing sensual or joyful about her escapades. Plus at times, I felt like the film somehow wanted to have it both ways: for instance there’s a scene where Amy attends a baby shower for her pregnant sister, where one of the mothers goes on about the joys of children in an over-the-top way we’re invited to snort at together with Amy. Yet the movie also keeps hammering the idea that the joys of family is precisely what Amy must embrace in order to be happy. It also plays with the idea that Amy might have a drinking problem, but then renders it inconsequential when Amy can give up drinking just like that. Why doesn’t every person with a booze problem just hand their stash to a homeless person? It worked in this movie!

Whatever, despite its supposedly risque but ultimately conservative outlook the movie could still have worked fine as a conventional romcom, but it’s only partly successful at that. Like many Judd Apatow movies it’s unjustifiably long and easily could have lost half an hour at least, as it is it often feels like listless stretches of tedium interrupted by some great, laugh-out-loud moments and scenes with warm, genuine character interactions. All the scenes with Tilda Swinton, who plays Amy’s aggressive boss and is all but unrecognisable under the layers of fake tan, are pure gold. I always loved her as a dramatic actress and had no idea she could be so funny. It was rather bizarre to see her in the same movie with Ezra Miller again, after their memorable work together in We Need to Talk About Kevin. As the lead, Amy Schumer is fantastic, a brilliant comic actress who handles the dramatic scenes just as well. I’d love to see her in a film that didn’t try so hard to tame her, but I’ll probably just have to look up her TV series instead. I wasn’t entirely sold on Bill Hader as Amy’s romantic interest. Maybe it’s just the residual dislike I have for his turn in Superbad where his character annoyed the crap out of me, or the lack of chemistry between him and Schumer, but I was kinda inclined to agree with Fake Tan!Tilda Swinton when she described Aaron as boring. LeBron James, the NBA player, is at first very amusing as Aaron’s overprotective friend, but overstays his welcome in some of the scenes. I did like the subplot with Amy’s father, who has a difficult relationship with both of his daughters and who instills the “monogamy doesn’t work” philosophy in Amy as a child in the opening scene. Overall, I’m glad I saw it but I hope this is just a stepping stone for Amy Schumer’s movie career on a way to better things.

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