Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, Brie Larson, Lebron James, John Cena and Colin Quinn
Running Time: 124 minutes
Release Date: August 14th
Teaming with Judd Apatow was the perfect move for Amy Schumer, making her foray into feature films. As a writer and star, if reviews were favourable — and Stateside, they have been — Schumer could take all the plaudits. Were it to bomb — for say, being too long, which it is — Apatow, maker of good but overly long comedies, was the failsafe for blame. And while he can be a problematic director, as a producer, his track record of getting up-and-comers projects off the ground is pretty solid.
But yeah, Trainwreck is too long. Sorry, Judd.
Schumer plays Amy, a features writer for Snuff magazine, a kind of glossier version of Nathan Barley‘s Suger Ape magazine ruled under the forceful hand of an incredible, fake-tan emblazoned Tilda Swinton. As a child, her attitude toward relationships was shaped by a philandering dad who tells her “monogamy isn’t realistic” when informing the then 9-year-old of his split from her mother. She it to heart, and goes on to date muscle-bound gym rat Steven (WWE’s John Cena) while taking home what she can. After catching a feature on a revolutionary sports physician, Aaron Connors (Hader), she soon finds herself falling for him, and questioning her own romantic outlook.
On Inside Amy Schumer, she’s proved herself an acerbic and hilarious voice, so what’s most surprising about Trainwreck is just how good she handles the drama. There’s a sadness that hangs over Amy that’s numbed with drinking and hook-ups. Her relationships with her MS-suffering father (Colin Quinn, excellent), sister (Brie Larson) who’s got her shit together, and the men she’s with all have varying levels of toxicity. Until she meets Aaron, her most meaningful interactions are with Noam, the homeless guy who panhandles outside her building. Schumer has a natural chemistry with all of them, particularly Larson, who toes the line between caring and judgemental while still ingratiating herself.
And while there are laughs with the leads, a lot of the comedy comes from unlikely places. Cena has one note to play with it, and he does it gloriously. During a verbal skirmish at a cinema, after someone calls him the name of a known pumped-up dumb Bostonian, he yells, “Mark Wahlberg, I look like Mark Wahlberg ate Mark Wahlberg.” It’s a fair comparison and you can see a career path where he picks up the roles Wahlberg turns down — who in turn feeds on the rejected scraps of Channing Tatum. NBA star LeBron James plays a frugal, penny-pinching and Downton Abbey version of himself. He steals just about every scene he’s in, whether he’s killing Aaron in pick-up basketball, dodging brunch cheques or getting giddy when his “boy got intimate!” As an intern at Snuff, Ezra Miller at first seems terribly miscast until a late scene unleashes a wonderfully ridiculous side to him.
But yeah, the length. Being generous, it could do with losing 20 minutes, perhaps even 30. It’s no surprise that Apatow’s best work, Freaks and Geeks, came in a form that dictates a locked in running time. If he could, even as an experiment, shoot for a 90 minute movie, the movie-going public would thank him. A chunk of the criticism, though, should fall on Schumer. Some scenes, in particular an intervention — complete with an obscure NBA commentator cameo — fall completely flat and clog up the story. Others are funny but give the impression of being skits from Schumer’s TV show that got shoe-horned in.
There are other small niggles: it might wish to pose itself as an anti-rom-com but it very much conforms to the structure, and, in reality, Amy isn’t all that much of a trainwreck. Still, her and Hader make a charming, funny pairing that are worth cheering for. And as well as a star-making turn for Schumer, it’s a welcome return to form for Apatow.