Judd Apatow's comedy stars Amy Schumer as rowdy, sexually frank 'Amy' whose views on relationships are challenged when she meets all-round good guy 'Aaron' (Bill Hader).
There’s a hunger for this kind of rowdy, sexually frank female-led romantic comedy. And even if Trainwreck isn’t quite as good as it should be – it’s baggy and long and loses its nerve in the third act – it wins fans merely because it exists and for the welcome guffaws it elicits.
American standup comedian and sketch comedy star Amy Schumer (who also wrote the script inspired by her own dating misadventures) plays ‘Amy’, a dirty-talking, heavy-drinking party girl who works at a lad’s magazine called S’Nuff. Helmed by a cockney editor from hell (played with glee by an unrecognisable Tilda Swinton), this is the the kind of magazine that publishes execrable stories with headings like ‘Ugliest Celebrity Children’ and ‘Does eating garlic affect the taste of semen?’ The biggest joke of the film though is that Amy treats the men she has sex with in the same way the worst womanisers treat their conquests: falling asleep after she’s had her own fun but before they’ve had theirs; never letting them stay over; and laughing awkwardly when they attempt anything as romantic as a second date. The muscle-bound men, on the other hand, giggle and gossip and long for commitment, seemingly oblivious to Amy’s burps and snores. There’s no denying how much fun it is to see the gender tables turned so radically.
Trainwreck is directed and produced by comedy impresario Judd Apatow. As with most of his films (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and This is 40), Trainwreck follows another hilariously immature hero or heroine who must be brought around to conservative middle class values by the film’s end. In Trainwreck, that beige and virtuous fate is represented by Amy’s happily married sister, Kim (played by Brie Larson who tries to give this role some tenderness and bite). As an audience, we’re really paying the price of admission to see gloriously bad behaviour. But we’re only allowed this fun because it’s a temporary bacchanal – like a bachelor’s party before the locks click shut on matrimony and child-rearing, which are apparently the only way to be truly happy and fulfilled in an Apatow universe.
So, Amy’s repeated assertion that ‘monogamy isn’t realistic’, instilled in her as a child by her proudly philandering father, disappears in a puff of convenient smoke when she meets the right man. She’s sent to write a profile of a successful sports doctor, Aaron, played by Bill Hader (an actor whose kooky handsomeness is just right) and somehow these two opposites fall for each other in a sweet, self-mocking montage of dates in Central Park and smooches on the subway. Aaron is innocent, but smart; Amy is funny and wild – but supposedly sensitive underneath it all, as suggested by the fact she cares for her disabled dad (Colin Quinn). And yet, it’s never quite believable that Amy and Aaron might work as a stable long-term couple. Is Amy really capable of changing her selfish loutish nature? Is Aaron really such a guileless sweetheart?
As with many Apatow films, the pacing in Trainwreck is a problem. It goes on and on, the story dragging to sustain itself between some admittedly great comic set-pieces and hilarious one-liners. And for those of us not interested in American sports, there are far too many cheerleading scenes and athlete cameos (Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Evert and Marv Albert to name a few you may or may not care about). The exception is LeBron James, a pro basket baller who plays a sensitive and feminised version of himself as Aaron’s best friend and confidante. He almost steals the show as a gentle giant with a fondness for Downton Abbey and a tendency to quote Kanye West when delivering dating advice.
Trainwreck may be an implausible romance with an ultimately conservative agenda, but it’s well worth a watch just to see Amy Schumer’s bad girl bravado. She makes us laugh when she’s messy and it feels more honest.