Dir: Judd Apatow, 2015
Since she was a child, Amy Townsend’s father dealt with his own failures as a husband by instilling into her the belief that “monogamy isn’t realistic”. Twenty-three years later, Amy is working as a writer for a seedy men’s magazine to fund her intemperate, promiscuous lifestyle. However, Amy soon finds herself questioning the gospel according to Pa when she starts falling for her latest subject – a sweet and successful sports doctor named Aaron Connors.
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad”, said Philip Larkin in his 1971 poem This Be the Verse. Even though Larkin’s father was an attendee of Nuremberg rallies twice over and decorated his office with Nazi regalia, when it comes daddy issues this poet got nothin’ on Amy. Saturday Night Live stand-up Colin Quinn is exceptional as Amy’s firebrand father who serves as the instigator for Schumer’s story. Taking his adolescent daughters aside and using dolls to explain their mother’s supposedly unfair marital expectations is by far one of the funniest opening scenes you’ll see this year.
Jumping ahead into Amy’s “adult” life, we find her in New York City living the very same fractured perception of human relationships while her sister Kim has gone the opposite route of marriage, children and a frank resentment of her father. From here on, we follow Amy on a journey of self-evaluation and social ineptitude as Schumer dissects traditional scopes of women in film without once patronising or lecturing her audience.
The director’s first film in which he didn’t pen the script, Judd Apatow (The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up) clearly revels in the pith and spirit that Schumer brings to the table and for once doesn’t feel the need to wear out the film’s welcome with a protracted running time. Schumer’s screenplay brings the same satirical, sideways-glance at sex, family, relationships and gender politics that her Comedy Central sketch show Inside Amy Schumer excels at but leans further away from farce than most modern American comedies do.
As with Apatow’s previous productions, Trainwreck serves as a pleasant outlet for comics to dust off their dramatic skills and both Schumer and Bill Hader are as comprehensive a couple as this film could ever ask for. Even Apatow’s assembled circumference of thespians and sportspersons bring their comedy A-game in roles that round out the film’s performances instead of simply turning heads with fleeting cameos. Tilda Swinton gives us another transformative turn as Amy’s merciless editor and John Cena is hilarious as a roided-up closet case but it’s Lebron James’ incendiary performance as a penny-pinching version of himself that bags the most laughs of Apatow’s razor-sharp support cast.
If there is indeed a casualty within Trainwreck, it is Schumer’s attempts to grasp a fashionable foothold in the pop culture of today. A string of Johnny Depp jokes, Game of Thrones references and a film-within-a-film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei fall flat enough to bring Trainwreck’s delirious trip to an excruciating halt. Fortunately these faults are few and far between and as soon as we’re back to Amy’s commitment catastrophes, the gags accelerate again.
As boorish as it is delightful, Trainwreck is a filthy specimen with a heart of absolute gold that many will find hard not to be won over by. Leading the charge as a witty and subversive tale of contemporary romance, Trainwreck powers full-throttle through the 21st century, with any luck, bringing Hollywood along for the ride.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆