“Trainwreck” is a raunchy romantic comedy from writer and star Amy Schumer and director Judd Apatow. The basic premise is fairly straightforward for this sort of movie, in that there’s a girl with issues who resolves her issues by meeting a really nice guy. Right off the bat what makes it more unique on the surface is that it’s a female protagonist with the “issues” that “need correcting”. Usually it’s a dumpy or unconventional guy who lands the hot girl and lives happily ever after. This reversal adds something to the premise that makes it inherently more memorable. The real question is whether the movie has anything to give beyond that.
There’s an attempt to add some sentiment and hard truth to the character and her situation. She takes after her father (played by SNL alum Colin Quinn), who was neglectful, cheated on their mother, and an alcoholic. For this we see her sleeping around with various men she doesn’t have any real interest in. It’s an interesting take for a female lead since so often characters like this are played by men. What this honesty and treatment of her do is make something of a judgment on her lifestyle. The movie’s stance is that she is wrong for doing what she does and therefore needs to stop in order to be happy. She’s resentful of her sister (Brie Larson), who opted for a more basic family and home, and spends many nights drunk and hooking up with men she doesn’t know or care to know, such as her sexually confused boyfriend played by John Cena.
There’s definitely a firm stance against this kind of behavior in the movie, and it’s not necessarily needed. This same premise could easily have been done without the darker edged subplot about her father which adds a certain weight to all her actions. Take for instance “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. Romantic comedy about an unconventionally attractive woman who has problems with men, her weight, drinking, her job, etc. The most significant difference is that Bridget Jones is not condemned for her behavior, in fact it’s something that her leading man enjoys about her. There’s no need for her to really change her ways. “Trainwreck” has the opposite approach, making these attributes serious flaws in her character that she must overcome.
Aside from this stance, what must be discussed is the comedy aspect of the movie. The greatest strengths lie with the main characters, specifically Amy and Aaron. Bill Hader plays Aaron and is likeable as always. His personable and casual performance makes his attraction to Amy believable. Their relationship and the turmoil’s its put through are more than enough to carry the story. Where the movie falls flat is really in the peripheral characters and general comedy.
Aaron is a famous surgeon for professional athletes and therefore most of his scenes involve him speaking to real athletes (and Matthew Broderick in one pointless instance). Not to say that the athletes, LeBron James being the most prominent, are all bad actors. Really it’s just that nothing they do or say is very funny. There are odd background jokes like SNL cast members appearing for one-off lines and not a one of them works. There’s also a really bad running gag featuring a dogwalking movie starring Marisa Tomei and Daniel Radcliffe, but the joke of it being a spoof of classy snob movies is lost.
Most surprising is the uninspired performance of Tilda Swinton, who you’d think would be great in a small role like Amy’s tough boss. During all her scenes I was just waiting for her to say something funny. She never did. The only good supporting role is from Vanessa Bayer, who plays Amy’s likeminded coworker. She nails her every line and is a bit of s scene stealer.
Due to so many jokes failing, what you can take away from “Trainwreck” is that it’s a decent romantic comedy where the leads live in a very unfunny world. The movie works because of the freshness of Amy Schumer’s ideas, specifically reversing the gender stereotypes in this kind of story, but beyond that it’s missing the key components that make it truly great. Sometimes, the comedy just needs to be a bit funnier.