Judd Apatow sure knows how to pick ‘em. Having guided the likes of Seth Rogen and Lena Dunham to the peak of the comedy pile, the Knocked Up-director has lined up Amy Schumer as his latest pet project.
Already a rising star across the pond thanks to the success of her subversive sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, Trainwreck will surely fire Schumer into the stratosphere as she uses her trademark sharp, spiky wit to put an empowering spin on romantic comedy cliches.
Schumer is Amy, an irresponsible New Yorker who, having been warned by her absentee father about the pitfalls of monogamy as a child, has adopted “love ‘em and leave ‘em” as her credo, substituting real relationships for a string of awkward one night stands with muscle-bound lunks.
That all looks sets to change, you’ll be (un)surprised to hear, when she is assigned to interview handsome sports doctor Aaron Conners (an understated Bill Hader) for vapid men’s rag S’nuff and finds herself actually falling for his hopelessly earnest charms.
Schumer is nothing short of a revelation in the lead role. Having written the screenplay as an amplified version of her own experiences, the tone is perfectly geared towards her comedic style, so it’s no surprise that the movie’s best scenes are when her sardonic take on sex and gender stereotypes are allowed to take centre stage.
What’s more unexpected, though, is just how well Schumer handles the more dramatic moments of her role. Despite her self-sabotaging defence mechanisms (Amy has a finely tuned exit strategy to ensure her casual liaisons never become something more), Amy is deeply insecure about her potential failings and Schumer enlivens her complex, layered character with exceptional nuance.
The movie is at its funniest during the first half when Amy unapologetically cuts loose. Blending cringey encounters, gross-out gags and acute observations, Schumer deftly skewers existing genre tropes by casting herself as the promiscuous slacker while her male counterparts play the endearing romantics (namely, John Cena’s big hearted meathead).
This move simultaneously freshens up the typical premise of unlucky-in-love 30-something finally finds the one whilst also shinning a light on the ridiculousness of these unrealistic gender generalisations.
The second half is far less satisfying, however, as Schumer’s solid work is almost completely undermined by Apatow’s clunky direction. True to form, the comedy kingpin is too indulgent with his characters and allows scenes to run on far longer than necessary.
This draws attention away from Schumer’s character and the film suffers as a result, becoming less scathing and more conventional as the story veers towards a happy ending that feels surprisingly false compared to the movie’s earlier tone.
With 20 minutes shaved off the running time, Trainwreck could have been one of the best romcoms since Bridesmaids. But while it’s rough around the edges, Schumer’s sharp humour and the cast’s engaging performances ensure it works as a light-hearted comedy more often than it doesn’t – and that’s more than enough.
Runtime: 125 mins; Genre: Romantic Comedy; Released: 14 August 2015;
Director: Judd Apatow; Writer: Amy Schumer;
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, John Cena
Click here to watch a trailer for Trainwreck