I so wanted to love Trainwreck, the new movie from director Judd Apatow, written by and starring Amy Schumer. I wanted to love it because I love Schumer and everything she does, from her standup to her brilliant Comedy Central television sketch show, “Inside Amy Schumer,” which has been the glorious discovery of the year for me. Her style, her comedy, her show, everything about her professional persona is addictively awesome: she’s revealing, raunchy, self-deprecating and real, but without any bitterness or nastiness we’ve come to expect from raunchy female comics. There’s something about Amy Schumer’s comedy that’s open, honest and raw yet also charming. Disarming, even. Imagine a cross between Chelsea Handler and Ellen DeGeneres, with just a hint of Joan Rivers—set in a trashy strip club—and you’ve got Amy Schumer.
Which is why it was easy for Judd Apatow, Hollywood’s comedy Kingmaker (or Queenmaker, as the case may be) to see the potential in Schumer to be Hollywood’s next female comedy superstar. After all, he did it for Lena Dunham on television (Apatow executive produces “Girls” for HBO), and Melissa McCarthy in movies (he produced Bridesmaids)—almost anything he touches turns to gold. Only Judd Apatow could have convinced a major Hollywood studio (Universal) to let a first-time screenwriter and standup comic who’s never been in a movie before to write and star in their own movie—a woman, no less! This isn’t Bridget Jones’s Diary, which was based on a best-selling book, or Sex and the City, which had a successful TV series behind it, or even Bridesmaids, which at least had Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph in it. Trainwreck is a romantic comedy—a raunchy comedy at that—starring someone nobody knows opposite a guy not many more people know. How did it get made? Because Judd Apatow believed in Amy Schumer.
That’s gutsy. And rare.
Which is why I SO wanted to love it.
But I’m not going to sit here and tell you to go see Trainwreck just to support a female-driven movie. That would be disingenuous. I would only tell you to go see Trainwreck if it were truly a great movie, which, sadly, it’s not. And I couldn’t be more disappointed. I know how incredibly talented and funny Amy Schumer can be, but it’s obvious she wasn’t quite ready, as a writer, to make the jump from sketch comedy to full-length movie screenplay. Trainwreck feels, at times, like a bunch of sketches thrown together—its worst moments are painful, its best moments are hilarious—but, as a full story, with a beginning, middle and end, the journey is really bumpy.
At the beginning of the film, we meet young Amy and her sister Kim, who are being lectured on the downsides of relationships, a lesson that Amy (her character is named Amy too—we get the feeling the story is more than slightly autobiographical) carries over to adulthood, as she grows into a woman who cannot/does not want to commit to any romantic entanglement that lasts longer than two weeks. Amy works as a writer for a men’s magazine (run by a wickedly over-the-top editor, played by the delicious Tilda Swinton, who can do no wrong) and gets an assignment to interview a sports doctor to the stars, played by the great Bill Hader. Amy and the doctor have a one-night stand, per Amy’s usual m.o., but the doctor ends up wanting to see her again, much to Amy’s surprise. The rest of the movie turns out to be a cute but predictable tables-are-turned gender role swapping comedy about commitment and what it takes to be in a relationship that I found to be quite run-of-the-mill. Worse even were the cameos, especially by sports stars—LeBron James in particular—that felt forced into the movie. Were these to alleviate the fact that the movie had no stars? Was this the concession the studio required to get the movie made? Was this to try to get guys to see the movie? Are we supposed to care? No, it wasn’t cute, it was painful. Not quite as painful as one particular scene with Chris Evert, Matthew Broderick and Marv Albert though—I could actually hear the audience groaning. And don’t play a drinking game every time a past or present Saturday Night Live performer shows up—you’ll be drunk halfway through the movie.
Was there anything I did like about Trainwreck? Well, yes: Amy Schumer. So what if she can’t really act, that’s actually part of her charm. Yes, I’m bummed that this movie wasn’t better. I’m bummed that the script stinks. But the moments in this movie that were really good—and there are a lot of them, just not strung together—were good because Schumer is just so enjoyable to spend time with. Her comedy is genuinely hilarious and when it hits, it hits perfectly. She shows a surprisingly heartfelt range as well, as Trainwreck is more than a bawdy laugh-fest. It’s a story about family and learning to come together and finding yourself and understanding what shapes you. These are not easy hurdles to tackle your first time out and I applaud so much here. Mainly, I love that this is, clearly, Amy Schumer’s voice, and it is a new, clear, loud and proud one, refreshing and brash. It doesn’t need any polishing, it just needs a little better focus. And maybe an editor. And, dare I say, a better director next time?
Trainwreck is far from perfect, but it got Amy Schumer onto the big stage, and, for that, it turns out I may just love it after all.