Trainwreck

August 8, 2015 at 3:55 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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In some ways, this reminds me of the Melissa McCarthy film, “Spy,” that I reviewed recently. I rarely ever see traditional comedies because I rarely find them as funny as most people do. In both of these cases, I made an exception because they were well reviewed and I was interested in central actress. With “Spy,” I was just curious about McCarthy, who I had never seen in anything. This time, I knew Amy Schumer’s work from the TV shows “Last Comic Standing” and “Inside Amy Schumer.” Like the best comics, she has an edge to her work; beneath the crass exterior, she’s pushing against cultural norms around gender roles and sex. All of that is present here, in this film that she wrote and stars in. In typical Schumer fashion, she inverts the romantic movie cliche about the earnest, loving woman who has to break through the barriers of the emotionally distant guy and teach him to love again. Schumer’s character is vulger, cynical, snide and guarded. In fact, this character would be unwatchable if played by a man but the inversion is part of the fun for the audience. Bill Hader (“The Skeleton Twins,” “Inside Out”) is perfectly cast as the unnaturally healthy, patient and lovable Aaron. Only a saint would stick it out long enough to heal Amy’s heart and Aaron is that saint. Hader is a naturally affable actor, who’s aw-shucks demeanor made Aaron seem charming rather than wimpy. The film has brilliant casting overall, with Tilda Swinton (“Snowpiercer,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) chewing up every scene she is in as Amy’s boss, Colin Quinn (mostly of SNL fame) as her small minded father and John Cena (the wrestler!) as her hysterically funny boyfriend.  LeBron James is also unexpectedly funny in his role as Aaron’s friend and confident. In fact, it’s a clever surprise how many people show up playing themselves in some capacity. At it’s best, the film could be very funny, as in a scene where Hader talks about Amy while attempting to play basketball with James. And it could be remarkably touching, as in Amy’s speech at a funeral. However, it was also crass in spades and much of that humor fell flat for me. The whole concept of the magazine where she worked and almost all the jokes in that setting seemed unimaginative and of the how-gross-can-we-be variety. Similarly, I felt there were a couple of critical missteps where humor was used to lighten a situation (as in the aforementioned funeral) and ended up stealing some of the power of the moment. It was as though Schumer and director Judd Apatow didn’t trust the audience to be willing to stay with the mood. This was my big disappointment of the film: there was certainly something interesting happening here; we had rich commentary and genuine humor but, in the end, it felt like it played dumb for an audience that didn’t include me. This felt like “American Pie” and “Something About Mary” and all the films I have avoided over the years because they held no interest for me. Schumer is a brilliant and insightful comic and I have heard her say that she worries a bit about being stereotyped as the sexually obsessed character she so often plays. To that end, this film won’t help change that perception (especially as her character also bares her name). I hope she gets that opportunity soon.

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