Starring: Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer), Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins), Brie Larson (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), LeBron James, John Cena (The Marine), Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin)
Director: Judd Apatow (Knocked Up)
Writer: Amy Schumer
Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes
Release Date: 17 July (US), 14 August (UK)
There hasn’t really been an honest romantic comedy, at least for this generation. Even when trying to depict relationships in a realistic light, there’s always an aura of falsity to the proceedings, like the filmmakers want to make a blunt statement but also need to satisfy the audience with a happy ending. Trainwreck is that rare film that manages to do exactly that without feeling at all dishonest.
Whilst presented like a typical rom com with plenty of the clichés as garnish (set in New York, working at a magazine, obnoxious best friend, etc), Trainwreck sets itself apart with one simple question, “What if our heroine wasn’t looking for romance?” It’s an intriguing point of view for this story to take, and one fitting for our society’s increasingly permissive view of relationships. Whilst it does eschew a lot of the traditions of both love and the genre, it doesn’t necessarily say those ideals are wrong. It presents its core relationship in a sincere and realistic way, and any time it looks like it’s going to become too treacly or trite it swerves and surprises you. For example: you know that typical situation about two thirds through one of these movies where the couple has a falling out or some misunderstanding and they break up? You always want to say, “Just talk!”, right? Well, here they do! It doesn’t go well, but they at least tried. The film even has a third act race and a grand romantic gesture, but it always finds a way to make it work in context. It’s little touches like that that shows some effort and awareness of reality. But that’s not to say the film is a perfect example of the genre. The film is a good 10-15 minutes too long (a typical flaw with Judd Apatow’s work, but not quite so egregious here), certain scenes feel a little overlong due to obvious adlibbing, and some of the comedy does fall flat at points. But for every joke that fails, there’s at least one that gets a chuckle and there are some scenes that are laugh-out loud funny throughout. So yeah, it needs some polishing, but Trainwreck gets a lot of points purely for its honesty.
Amy Schumer’s been hanging around Hollywood a while now, and her first foray into the film spotlight is certainly a success. Her sense of humour is crude and her personality a little boorish, but it’s just the right amount to avoid being obnoxious. Her being flummoxed by the initial concept of romance seems a little OTT, but by the time she’s deep in there’s a lot of humanity there. Like with her excellent work on the screenplay, Schumer’s performance is genuine and consistently engaging and I’d love to see her get the chance to star in movies beyond her comedy roots; I really do think she has the chops to stretch further. Bill Hader is as hilarious as ever, just as unconventional a romantic lead as Schumer is, and their chemistry is palatable in all the right ways. Their relationship isn’t some destiny-laden, far-flung romance where they seem meant for each other. They’re just two people with radically different interests and professions that somehow find something that connects them. And you know what, that’s how life usually works! The rest of the film’s cast is generally good, with some surprise turns from the likes of LeBron James and especially John Cena; the scene with him and Schumer in the cinema keeps hitting and hitting with the jokes. Tilda Swinton feels a little underutilised and her character a bit wafty, as did Ezra Miller, but the focus is on Schumer and Hader and they did more than enough to compensate.
Trainwreck is a fresh and honest look at relationships and the romantic comedy in general, and a perfect showcase for Amy Schumer’s talents. Apatow’s best film since The 40 Year Old Virgin, it’s consistently funny and just sweet enough to be satisfying, but the traces of bitterness seeded throughout is what makes it such a unique movie. Whether you can’t get enough of romance or think it’s become stale, give this one a try and maybe you’ll see that sparks can still be made from this overworked genre.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10