Among the many successful writers in the realm of modern comedy, none stand out quite like Judd Apatow. Louis C.K. has a terrific television series going for him, Phil Lord & Chris Miller are hitting it with everything they make, Edgar Wright is still brilliant, and Paul Feig is gaining a following with his Melissa McCarthy teamups. But Apatow has been in the game for a long time, and he continues to impress as the years go on.
Trainwreck, Apatow’s fifth feature as a director, is hilarious. But to say that isn’t saying much to surprise you, so what makes it stand out during this summer movie season? Two words. Amy. Schumer. She comes onto the scene like a freight train, delivering a hilariously ballsy performance and acting with a script that she herself penned. Schumer’s credit as the film’s writer is another thing that makes the film standout from the rest of Apatow’s work, as this is the first time that he himself hasn’t written the script for the film he is directing.
Apatow’s directorial career started with The 40-Year Old Virgin, which he co-wrote with star Steve Carell. Often cited as a fan favorite, that was the film to really kick off Carell’s career and it still stands as one of the more notable comedies of its decade. Another fan favorite is Apatow’s second feature Knocked Up, where the then smaller known Seth Rogen took center stage alongside Katherine Heigl. And who doesn’t love Knocked Up? I’ve met people who don’t like The 40-Year Old Virgin, and I’ve met people who really didn’t like the spinoff This is 40 (I didn’t think too highly of it myself), but everyone I talk to likes Knocked Up. I mean, even my mom (who is one of the most anti-profanity and anti-everything Apatow-ish) loves Knocked Up. It’s one of the few movies she’s watched more than once by choice.
And then there’s Funny People, the 150-minute dramedy that audiences went into expecting laughs and walked out with tears and a bitter resentment for Apatow. And by “audiences,” I mean everyday schmoes that don’t care about anything besides a few laughs and a short running time. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me defending the film (and once even getting a response from Judd Apatow himself thanking me, which was awesome). I could go on and on about how Funny People is my favorite film of Apatow’s (which it still is), but that’s a different discussion for a different day.
Now there’s Trainwreck, and while it doesn’t have the dramatic emotional depth of the superb Funny People, Schumer’s script aims comedy right at the gut and it hits hard almost every time. Schumer plays Amy, a just alright writer for a just alright magazine. Unlike the Cosmopolitan, this modern and hip magazine is known for publishing bizarre articles like “You’re not gay; She’s just boring.” During a meeting, the boss Dianna (an excellent and hilarious Tilda Swinton) brings up the topic of sports, to which Amy responds with a “sports are stupid” rant. Impressed by Amy’s enthusiasm for being against sports, Dianna assigns the article to her. But what could initially be outrage turns into something else when she meets her subject. He’s a sports doctor named Aaron (played by Bill Hader), and he believes in monogamy.
So what makes his desire for her to stay over after sex so shocking to her? Well, Amy isn’t what you would consider relationship material. Sure, the first act of the film has her in a relationship with a steamy hunk (John Cena kills it in every scene he’s in), but she considers it to be an open relationship, sleeping with whomever she pleases, breaking his sensitive heart (seeing John Cena break down and talk about his emotions is one of the film’s best moments).
So, after some failed shots at one night stands (it’s implied that Amy has slept with many, many guys), she meets Aaron and, dare I say it, falls in love. It has all the ingredients for a run-of-the-mill rom-com, but those ingredients are enhanced with the addition of Schumer and Apatow. This is a raunchy movie, and I don’t usually point that out because raunchiness usually isn’t something to discuss, but here, the raunchiness is teetering on the line of “what-the-hell-am-I-watching?” Actually, there was one point when the guy behind said those exact word out loud. It’s that insane.
In Schumer’s script, the little moments are what count. In one scene, two girls sitting in parallel bathroom stalls talk about which version of Johnny Depp they would have sex with. “I would totally let Willy Wonka Johnny Depp fuck me,” one of the girls says. The whole conversation is killer. Another moment involves Amy and Cena’s brawny boyfriend character seeing a movie about dogwalking starring Daniel Radcliffe. Another spectacular scene involves LeBron James talking to Aaron about Cleveland and how his NBA Finals experiences relate to him (but they really don’t). Other moments allow actors like the aforementioned John Cena, The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s Ezra Miller, and even LeBron (I know, I know, just trust me on this one) shine brightly, and they’re actually some of the film’s best elements.
The events of Trainwreck unfold in a typical fashion, but the smaller moments are what make it stand out, as the script seems focused on Amy’s background and her relationship with her aging father (Colin Quinn), who firmly believes that “monogamy isn’t realistic.” He believes this so strongly that he instills the notion into her and her sister (Brie Larson, adorable as ever) when they’re young.
This dynamic, Amy’s personal journey and past experiences, are what carry Trainwreck, and it also sometimes works to the film’s disadvantage. Amy’s constant turns back to her ways of sleeping around eventually gets to the point where it becomes impossible to root for her, and we’re left to sympathize with Aaron. Then again, by the ending, Schumer finds a way to bring us back to loving our lead character. And as a lead character, Schumer is terrific, hilarious in her breakout role.
Trainwreck is the best comedy of the year so far; a consistently hilarious romp from director Judd Apatow, but this feels more like an Amy Schumer movie than one from Apatow. Still, he’s behind the camera, and credit must go where credit is due. Apatow is one of the finest comedic writers/producers/directors working today, and Trainwreck hits like a force of nature. But it’s Schumer that people will walk away talking about, and appropriately so.
2 hrs. 3 mins.
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
Starring Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, LeBron James, John Cena, Brie Larson
Written by Amy Schumer
Directed by Judd Apatow