Leave it to a man to soften Amy Schumer, after all the feminist daggers tossed on her Comedy Central television show.
Trainwreck is Schumer's funny movie star debut that could've been hilarious, if director Judd Apatow would just say "cut" a bit sooner once in a while.
Being a film editor must be the easiest job on one of Apatow's movies. Just let the footage roll until the improv dries up, splice and paste to the previous shagginess. Fine for comedy, which Apatow is second to none in appreciating, but not helpful for telling a story through filmmaking.
Not that there's much plot here. Schumer plays magazine writer Amy Townsend, a version of her TV persona, the easy girl next door without a social filter. Amy is assigned to do a story on professional sports doctor Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), and falls for him despite a deep-rooted aversion to commitment.
Schumer wrote Trainwreck, at times superbly, based loosely upon her single life experiences. It feels uncommonly lived-in for a romantic comedy, laced with honest moments defining love and its frustrations. Schumer's screenplay is bawdy and wise about modern womanhood, saints and sinners alike. It would make a terrific comedy about 20 minutes shorter.
That is the conflicted nature of all Apatow movies after The 40-Year-Old Virgin, a tendency to dote a little too long on characters and situations that are funny/warm/insightful. In the moment we enjoy, for example, Aaron and charismatic NBA star LeBron James' bromanship at dinner and playing basketball. Then the scenes continue a few beats longer that feel necessary, and one wishes for Apatow to move along.
Not a deal breaker by itself but multiply that dip in caring by the number of edgy-sweet sisterly scenes between Schumer and Brie Larson, or a nearly unrecognizable Tilda Swinton's posh spice as Amy's employer. Or any of Aaron and Amy's many courtship scenes, for that matter.
That's a lot of quality material to turn into comedy speedbumps but Apatow does it all the time, and it adds up.
Appropriately, the best jokes in Trainwreck are unprintable, or too winding to describe. Schumer's sexual vocabulary and observational skills get a workout, surrounded by an occasionally surprising cast of foils. James is, indeed, as smooth before the camera as we've heard, WWE star John Cena even better as Amy's sexually conflicted benefits friend, and Colin Quinn's turn as Amy's poor excuse for a father is further proof of his underuse in movies.
Pay attention to the father's nursing home companion. That's Norman Lloyd, age 100, whose career stretches back to Orson Welles' Mercury Theater and Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur, still alert and highly amusing.
What nags about Trainwreck is its late turn toward the sort of conventional rom-com that Schumer wouldn't be expected to take seriously. It isn't a spoof of conventions as much as an unorthodox talent bending to them, making her bid for American sweetheartness. We get the late breakup, the run through city streets to an appointed destination, the grandiose gesture of affection sealing the romantic deal.
Even so, Schumer is constantly watchable, and her chemistry with Hader has a rare, unforced eccentricity. I'd prefer less of everyone else but who would you cut out? Trainwreck is the same old Apatow miscalculation, too scattered for its own good. Excuse me if I skip the extended director's cut on DVD.
Planning your weekend?
Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Contact Steve Persall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.