Directed by Judd Apatow
I’ve always felt like there was something about director Judd Apatow that I was missing. Whatever it is that critics love to hate, I don’t see it. Sure, he has a habit of going a half-hour too long. That’s a fair criticism. And maybe he likes to recycle themes and characters throughout his films (40% of the films he’s directed have the number “40” in the title, and Seth Rogen appears in 60% of them). But in his newest, “Trainwreck,” Apatow – for the first time – has no writing credit. He lets star Amy Schumer hold the reigns. And I think the movie is better for it.
Amy (Schumer, using her own first name as she tends to do) has been taught since she was a youngster that monogamy was unrealistic. That’s thanks to her father, who separated from his wife after numerous affairs. Now, Amy works for a men’s lifestyle magazine run by Dianna (Tilda Swinton, completely unrecognizable). She’s assigned an unwanted piece about a young sports doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader), who’s about to perform an industry-changing knee surgery on NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire (playing himself). When Amy meets Aaron, and drinks with him, and eventually sleeps with him…well, she catches the lovebug. But she doesn’t want to follow the husband-and-kid life of her suburban older sister, Kim (Brie Larson). So Amy tries to fight it, leading to a complicated months-long relationship…ish.
Apatow’s comedies are unlike any other director’s. He makes them real, and more than often with a tinge of heartbreak and tragedy. Yes, maybe that heartbreak is always caused by deteriorating relationships. And yes, maybe they always mend neatly within two hours. But still, Apatow comedies feel like relationship sagas. And this one is adorable. Bill Hader is the perfect everyman for the job. He makes Aaron a completely reasonable guy, a nice guy, without being overly comedic. In “The Skeleton Twins” he pulled off the drama, and here he uses the best of that performance to make Aaron a rounded, multi-dimensional character. And Amy, as much as I hate her permanent post-wisdom-teeth cheeks, is a spot-on trainwreck. Because she’s sort of playing herself. Hader and Schumer have surprisingly adorable chemistry, like a Woody Allen couple. They’re the glue that makes this relationship story (for the two hours that it is) actually work. And Apatow knows how to get big names in small roles, too. John Cena plays Amy’s boyfriend before Aaron, a hulking beefcake who isn’t the best at insults…or dirty talk…or communication in general. He’s a surprising bright spot. And LeBron James, playing himself, has a career after his eventual retirement from the NBA. He’ll make a perfect buddy flick sidekick. He doesn’t crack a smile even in the funniest of scenes, a true pro. The rest of the cameos, though, I’ll leave for you to discover.
In context with Apatow’s other films, I would say “Trainwreck” falls in the middle, not quite as good as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” or “Knocked Up” but better than “This is 40” and “Funny People.” But considering his last two were his worst, I think maybe we’re seeing an upward trend. For all of the motifs Apatow carries over from his other films (even though Schumer wrote it, it still very much feels Apatowian), “Trainwreck” is a heartwarming love story that draws more than a few big laughs. It’s like a warm bowl of soup on a winter day. Soup is nobody’s favorite food, but when it’s cold outside and you’re under the weather there is nothing more perfect. When you need it, a movie like “Trainwreck” can’t be topped. But maybe the soup metaphor was bad since it’s July. Well, you know what I mean.