Poignant romantic comedies always seem to be a fluke these days. Tropes — like the guy who can’t commit or the woman with the klutzy but sunny disposition — have been played on for so long that they leave a bad taste in the mouth. It’s hard to stay hopeful for a good romantic comedy when the field is already dry and almost dead.
Enter Trainwreck, the raunchy brainchild of comedian Amy Schumer. Best known for her critically acclaimed Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer and her various stand up specials, Schumer’s brand of comedy falls on the edgier and more unpredictable side, the kind that will make you gasp and will leave you in awe of either the intelligence or the sheer guts it takes to make her jokes. Though Schumer’s humor stems from her past relationships, she is also an active feminist and an advocate for women’s rights, a fact evident from her own sketch series. Does Trainwreck, her first feature film as the lead, measure up to her impressive body of work?
The film, semi-autobiographical because it was written by Schumer herself, begins with Amy Townsend, a men’s magazine writer who loves to drink alcohol, embraces her sexuality, and is afraid of commitments. In an exposition, she tells the audience that, before they judge, she is doing great; her apartment’s cool, she has a great job, and she can do whatever she wants. Amy, while seeing one guy, is quick to bed hop with other guys; she defends herself by saying that there are no agreements on commitment. While juggling her career and lifestyle, she also makes an effort to bond with family, especially with her father, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
One of the things that makes Trainwreck work is Amy Schumer’s relatability. Too often, rom-coms try to sell the audience in on a heroine’s imperfection; here, Amy gets drunk a lot and makes a lot of bad decisions. “We all know one,” the film’s tagline nonchalantly pertains to Townsend being a trainwreck. Surely, the bad decisions are something that is universally relatable on some level. Charm and wit is also something the movie sells on Schumer’s behalf, and luckily, there is no shortage of both from the protagonist. Amy Schumer knows how to throw a joke, and the punchline delivers.
As the film progresses, Amy is tasked to write an article on Dr. Aaron Conners, a sports doctor who works with athletes — then the two hit it off immediately and sparks fly. The real tipping point of the film begins — Amy’s the commitment-phobe while Aaron is the guy who asks her out and wants to take her on dates. There is chemistry between the two actors, and it makes the film all the more compelling. Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader plays Aaron with finesse and ease. Known for playing eccentric characters, Hader’s portrayal of Conners is a breath of fresh air and ultimately proves that Bill Hader can be a leading man and more.
Though Amy Schumer carries the film with her humor, the supporting cast also deserves kudos for delivering noteworthy performances. Tilda Swinton, almost unrecognizable as Amy’s British boss, makes every scene she’s in pop and crackle; she balances with Schumer because her character, Dianna, is zany. On the other hand, Brie Larson, who played Amy’s sister Kim, delivered excellent work as the settled and more relaxed one of the Townsend siblings. Though mostly known for her great dramatic performances, Larson’s portrayal was still memorable because of how grounded and understanding her character is.
Meanwhile, the rest of the film’s supporting cast, which includes Vanessa Bayer, Colin Quinn, and other notables, are a ripe roster of comedy veterans who shine in their own ways, and audiences who love comedy will appreciate the cameos present from Saturday Night Live and Inside Amy Schumer. Look out for hilarious and scene-stealing turns from celebrities LeBron James and John Cena. However, at the heart of Trainwreck lies a character study that will turn expectations on its head.
As Amy’s life unravels and becomes emotional, self-realization comes in the place of doubt and fear. Schumer has admitted in interviews that her journey from conception to filming has been “difficult” because she was getting into thoughts and feelings that weren’t even in the back of her mind. It’s worth noting, however, that Schumer’s work, no matter how difficult or cringe-inducing, always brings out the ugly truth. In an interview with GQ Magazine, she says, “It’s fun to be yourself when the room is demanding otherwise.” Trainwreck, with all of its raunchy, uncensored, and gritty glory, rears its head on all “rom-com” stereotypes and becomes a fully fleshed “dramedy” that tells it like it is, with heart.
Authenticity from film is hard to come by. For all the praise and criticism heaped upon Amy Schumer, Trainwreck is a testament to how truth is important to her, next to being herself and being funny. It’s actually unfair to tag Trainwreck as just a romantic comedy; it’s about family, the relationships people keep, and one’s relationship with self. It’s also a mark that Amy Schumer doubled down on a promise of a quality screenplay. Trainwreck is poignant, in both its highs and lows, and it’s the film’s honesty that makes you believe it’s far from a disaster.
Rating: 4.0 / 4.0