Director: Judd Apatow
Apatow Productions/Universal Pictures
We’re at the point now where you expect a Judd Apatow film to be too long – speaking to Marc Maron months before the film was finalised Apatow was self-effacing when Maron straight away asked for the running time of the first cut, questioning whether it came in under three hours. Apatow, for all his reminders that he is a “comedy nerd” has some terrible instincts when it comes to making comedies; they’re transmogrified into romantic-dramas with crass one-liners to keep people watching. And so it is with Trainwreck except this film was sold as the first starring/writing movie project for 2015’s It-Girl of Comedy, Amy Schumer. Hey, she’s earned that title – her show is great, and she’s done the work. But Trainwreck is deceiving, duplicitous and…just not very good.
For a start, that misleading poster image and the tagline that it’s brought to us by the guy that gave us Bridesmaids, that suggests drunken fun – when Amy’s character enjoying a drink is one of several pointless, barely developed tag-ons to hard-sell that she’s irresponsible in her private life but enjoys not playing by society’s tone-it-down/settle-down rules. (Also, why is the comedy work of women needing to be chaperoned in on the name of a male producer/director if we’re said to be celebrating strong, funny female characters; Apatow’s clutch on both projects – despite financing them, greenlighting them – belittles them in that sense too).
Hey, look, I wanted to like this film a lot – and there are moments, Colin Quinn (not used enough) and perhaps oddly given they’re not actors, John Cena and LeBron James, all shine. But having the best bits of dialogue written for (and delivered by) such blatant non-actors is a concern for the attempts at actual drama (let alone comedy) shown on the same screen. Schumer has a few of her usual tropes in place and quips at the ready, and you could read this as being a subversive spin on the dramatic rom-com where the female gets to be the main – full – lead and is unapologetic of her behaviour, possibly revelling in it. Except that’s not quite what happens. Trainwreck is ruined by its plodding pace, its uneven storytelling and its waste of talent but it’s also not quite as clever as it thinks. That poster’s a lie and announces a different movie – arguably the title does too, although this film comes to embody that title in a way anyone connected to the project would not have wanted and presumably never saw. Also the big script-point that Schumer’s character (also called ‘Amy’ – but an Amy for the screen) is fun-loving and carefree and so strong in her embodiment of being a woman comfortable in her own skin and uninterested in conforming is not really the case. She makes excuses for this behaviour – essentially it’s blamed on her rotten old man (and whether that’s fair or not it’s just odd she needs to hang it somewhere) – and she falls heavy, almost straight away within the context of the film. So it’s all been a ruse, another standard rom-com set-up.
Then we switch to something nowhere near subversive, something that’s swiftly a snooze-fest. And we watch as too many friends-of-Schumer get to cameo (Dave Attell being particularly atrocious and pointless, Mike Biribiglia somewhat wasted) and Tilda Swinton has to mug it ugly-accent styles as some crass caricature of a magazine editor because magazine writers and editors are never ever sent up in Hollywood films ever! And British people are always leering geezers – regardless of gender.
Trainwreck is an idea stretched far too thin, made worse by Apatow turning it into a Judd Apatow film rather than allowing this to shine as an attempt by Schumer. But none of that matters I’m sure. People love Amy Schumer and will see through the weak spots and give her credit where they’re sure it’s due (showing an acting range that is better than most stand-up comics in first feature-film attempts) forgetting that, credit-wise, the writing here also shows her up as much weaker than on her show, Inside Amy Schumer, where a committee helps to shape ideas and creates an economy that Apatow is simply not interested in/incapable of.
A hot mess with a line or two that will make you laugh.
But it’s still Amy Schumer’s year. Which just says more about everything else she’s done (the skits about Bill Cosby, the show, her Vines, her social media presence and talk show appearances) meaning even with this albatross around her neck she’s stepped into the big leagues. Well, that’s how you finally make it after all, you just have to dumb it down enough. Here she’s gone above and beyond it seems.