Thursday, 3 September 2015

Trainwreck | Film Review

Trainwreck, dir. Judd Apatow, wr. Amy Schumer, st. Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, LeBron James, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller

Judd Apatow may have made a name for himself producing such bromance ribaldry of the likes of Knocked Up and Superbad, but arguably his biggest hit came from curating the overflowing talent from the various female comics he assembled for 2011's Bridesmaids. The movie was a huge success, principally for just being as funny as heck, but also for subverting a genre usually reserved for the guys - a bunch of friends doing their thing unburdened by the weight of the patriarchy. It's no surprise then that he returns to this kind of platform-gifting - this time, to Amy Schumer. Trainwreck is ostensibly a feature-length amalgamation of Schumer's Comedy Central sketch-based TV show Inside Amy Schumer (of which several of her co-stars return here) and her 2012 stand-up special Mostly Sex Stuff. Fans of her work will be contented with more of what they love, but Trainwreck exposes her to a much wider audience.

The script - Schumer's own - finds her playing a version of her meticulously crafted persona, Amy Townsend, a girl who routinely gets drunk or stoned (or both) and falls into bed with the nearest available guy. Her one rule is that she never lets the guys stay over. It's her way of facilitating her detachment, but, as we see from a flashback that prefaces the film, it also stems from her father explaining to her and her sister about the collapse of his marriage to their mother. "Imagine only playing with one doll for the rest of your life!" he tells them. Amy's sister Kim (Larson) has managed to escape such indoctrination, finding happiness with nice, normal Tom (Mike Birbiglia) and his son, but the pair are torn over their father's assisted living bills. Perpetuating Amy's mindset is the fact she works at S'nuff magazine (imagine Nuts, Loaded and Zoo all joining forces to form one unholy publication) were she trots out "journalism" that caters to the public appetite for misogyny. At one staff meeting, editor Dianna, played with immense ferocity under near-unrecognisable tan and accent by Swinton, suggests someone interview Aaron Conners (Hader - another Comedy Central alumnus), sports doctor to the stars. Amy hates sports which Dianna of course finds irresistible and insists Amy do the piece. 

Naturally, you can see where this is heading. Aaron, with Hader dialling it down a few notches, is a winningly straightforward guy, constantly needled as he is by one of his star clients LeBron James, who with shades of Annie Wilkes, is obsessively concerned with his friend's welfare. As rom-coms go, Trainwreck satisfies, but its greatest failing is that it never truly demonstrates the courage of its convictions. After having set up Amy's insecurities and selfishness against her sister having found contentment and peace despite their shared upbringing, the slip of a third act rushes through a stock ending (with a big dance number no less) that dilutes all that's gone before. From a Studio perspective of course, Trainwreck isn't too subversive in its structure to unsettle its audience, but it might have been a greater film if it had. To its credit, Schumer's Amy is as easy to root for as Wiig's Annie in Bridesmaids and shares many of the latter actor's comedic smarts. But it's only Larson who lends the film any serious dramatic weight, such is her ability to command a scene, and there's a nagging feeling that her character feels excluded over the promotion of the film's star. Schumer's film then is quite watchable, not the disaster its title bestows upon its protagonist, but be prepared for the scenery to be more engaging than the destination.