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Trainwreck [SXSW 2015]
Universal // R // July 17, 2015
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
While the majority of Austin, Texas' South By Southwest Film Festival features independent films, there are a few Hollywood pictures that make their way into the event. These are primarily utilized to draw the crowds with its big name celebrities starring in highly anticipated titles. Well, the crowds certainly showed up for Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer's newest creation. Schumer has been known for her stand-up comedy for quite some time now, but she's finally delivering a film that she has both wrote and starred in. Apatow is famous around the world for his raunchy comedies that are generally about twenty minutes too long. While entertaining, Trainwreck suffers from the same fate, among other faults that hold it back from being the funniest motion picture of this Texan film festival.
Having grown up with a father who doesn't believe in monogamy, Amy (Amy Schumer) has followed in similar footsteps. She's a commitment-phobic journalist who writes for a gossip magazine. Amy is striving for an open promotion by day, and sleeping with men at night. She follows a set of rules to ensure that no romantic connection is formed. After she meets the sweet and smart sports physician named Aaron (Bill Hader), everything she ever knew about relationships is completely flipped on its head.
Trainwreck begins with a monologue that successfully explains why Amy tries to avoid any genuine romantic relationships. As a young girl, her father lectures her and her sister, Kim (Brie Larson), on why he is getting a divorce with their mother. He rambles on about monogamy being unrealistic, which brings us to current day, as Amy sleeps with countless men. Screenwriter Amy Schumer plays with gender stereotypes by placing what is generally expected from a male role into a female lead. She continues to manipulate numerous clichés that are generally associated with romantic comedies. However, the first half of the film takes so long to plant the seeds that develop into real problems for Amy, that it causes the remainder of the story progressions to feel rushed. Schumer should have separated some of these elements in order to provide the characters and the jokes with space to breathe. As it stands, the second half is incredibly congested and the first half has very little to do.
Perhaps the biggest issue is that the jokes simply aren't that humorous. Schumer is one of the funniest comedians around, but this often doesn't feel like it's her work. The overall rhythm of the film has Judd Apatow's name written all over it, which begs the question, how much of this is actually made by Schumer? It isn't a coincidence that every plot beat resembles that of any Apatow film. The majority of the gags are strikingly familiar, and the banter between characters is heavily underutilized. Despite the fact that the characters themselves are relatively well-written, it's such a shame that it feels as if they're practically begging for laughter from the audience. Fortunately, the humor improves as the story moves forward, but most of it results in a chuckle rather than full-out laughter.
Even though it continues to feel more busy over time, the second half is much stronger. The jokes hit harder, stakes are established, and we come to genuinely care about the characters in this world that Schumer has created. However, there are so many stories unfolding at the same time, that there isn't an adequate amount of attention paid to each one. However, there's actually quite a bit of quality content here. We know exactly what formula is being applied to every single joke and plot beat, but it's a pleasure to take this personal journey with Amy, where she's finally forced to come to a revelation that wakes her from the poisonous thoughts that her father placed in her mind. Trainwreck has a sentimental third act that works simply because of how genuine Amy comes across. We've seen this conclusion plenty of times elsewhere, but it's much more effective here than it usually is. The characters are so charming, that you'll just wish that the humor would match up.
Writer and star Amy Schumer has remained tremendously underrated in the film industry for years. She has a sense of charisma and screen presence that surpasses that of many comedy actresses. This remains true in this Judd Apatow-directed comedy. Most of the laughs are created by Schumer's physical performance rather than the dialogue itself. Bill Hader is convincing as Aaron, as he successfully plays the nice guy who genuinely cares for the Amy. However, the chemistry between Hader and Schumer is a bit rough. Other supporting performances from Brie Larson and John Cena deliver a few laughs, and even some moments of sincerity, but the film doesn't allow much space for any of these sequences.
Even despite the skeptics, Trainwreck had the potential to shine with Schumer's supposed heavy involvement. However, it's really a Judd Apatow film in a disguise, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Schumer's voice feels muted. As the film stands, it tries to fit far too much within the feature's second act, leaving the first act feeling empty. Despite all of the film's issues, Schumer is remarkably charming and likable, and the supporting performances enhance the picture's many sub-plots. The dramatic elements feel genuine, but the comedy simply feels lost. Trainwreck is a hot mess, but at least it embraces it. Recommended.
Trainwreck played at SXSW Film Festival 2015 on March 15th.