Trainwreck

Trainwreck
Victory pumps for all concernedPhoto: Universal Pictures

5 StarsWhy I Saw It: Press screening, curious for Schumer (insightful irreverence), Swinton (goddess), Miller (because omigosh Kevin), and Hader (surprisingly good dramatic chops).
What I Thought: Amy Schumer is a national treasure, and this one’s likely to become a classic – if perhaps a bit of a sleeper on the road to that status. It’s When Harry Met Sally…‘s naughty kid sister.

Trainwreck. Dir. Judd Apatow. Perf. Amy Schumer (writer), Bill Hader, Colin Quinn, Brie Larson, LeBron James, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John Cena, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Dave Attell, Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, Tim Meadows, Matthew Broderick, Marv Albert, Chris Evert. Universal Pictures, 2015.

A snarky, hard-partying writer lives out her father’s philandering legacy until she falls hard for a decent guy, and realizes that she herself is a well… you know.
A colleague of mine recently dubbed Amy Schumer a national treasure, and he’s absolutely right. Her Trainwreck is a perfect film we didn’t know we’ve been waiting for all our lives. Equal parts sex comedy, morality play, social commentary, and fairy tale, Trainwreck is When Harry Met Sally…’s naughty kid sister.

Here we meet Schumer’s irreverent stand-up persona, introduced at tender age as she and her younger sister, Kim, sit on the hood of the family car, having the divorce explained to them by their philandering father and being indoctrinated into his worldview that “monogamy isn’t realistic!” And thus two roads diverged on a narrow driveway.

While Amy’s sister opted for the route of deep resentment toward their father, Amy opted for identification and became the proverbial chip off the old block. Where Kim stood in opposition and seeks a stable family life, Amy embraced the deliberately (and often harshly) unencumbered thrill of her own moment. Convinced she’s made the saner choice and disdainful of her sister’s life, Amy continues on her merry way, leaving emotional carnage in her wake, until she catches the attention of a truly decent individual, and realizes that she herself is actually the, well… you get it.

For starters, Amy is quite happily employed at rag sheet called S’Nuff, writing articles aimed at the lowest brow possible and arduously campaigning for second- in-command to editor Dianna, a person so base and narcissistic as to be reasonably described as being socially depraved. Played with aplomb by the divine Tilda Swinton, this one and Lou Bloom would no doubt ride off into the sunset together.

When Amy she vocally objects to the value of profiling a noted sports surgeon named Aaron Conners and reveals her utter dislike of sports, the job lands squarely in Amy’s lap and she finds herself in the delightful company of a grownup who for the most part doesn’t mind her wild ways and loves everything else about her.

So of course she begins to torpedo the relationship, but Aaron’s too emotionally present to let her get away with it. Commence to derailment.

Raucously ribald and unapologetically frank, Trainwreck isn’t for those who blush easily (consider yourself duly warned!), but it’s filled with all the heart in the world. As Amy realizes that her historical approach could cost her exquisitely and that perhaps Kim didn’t have it all wrong, she struggles to disengage from her father’s often [arguably] unintentional callousness without disengaging from her love for him.

It’s thorny emotional territory that Amy faces, but throughout Schumer keeps perfect control of the tone; the most riotous moments never ignore the cost Amy is paying for them, and the most dramatic moments never allow the film to lose its sense of spirit.

As bawdy as it is, and as low as some of its characters – most often Amy – sink, Trainwreck remains completely free of judgment while reflecting completely on what is worth reconsidering. It extols the joy and value of love and true attachment, and reaches for the most best, most elevated form of who we can be as human beings. It points out the sorry results of copping out emotionally while never faulting an individual for that frailty, and shows the path to a better life without for a second lapsing preachy or stepping outside its comedic beat.

LeBron James and Bill Hader in Trainwreck
The casting of Bill Hader as Amy’s inamorato was a stroke of genius (it was Apatow’s idea); as we saw with The Skeleton Twins, Hader possesses a deeply dramatic streak he can access without becoming “the comedic actor who wants to show that he can do serious work.” He just does serious work, yet meets Schumer’s bawdy hilarity point-for-point.

Delight is to be found in the supporting characters as well. LeBron James was genuinely sensational as Aaron’s patient and devoted friend; written in as himself by a delighted Schumer who never expected him actually to agree, he could easily transition into regular cinematic sidekick work but for the fact it’s probably impossible to forget he’s LeBron James. But Dwayne Johnson is now dropping “The Rock” from his billing name, so it could likely work, and would be welcome.

Equally delicious is the presence of Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller, last seen together in the sensational We Need to Talk About Kevin (I’d gush, but it would kill the lovely little comedic buzz we have going here). The two don’t have a proper scene together, but watch for the shot as the staff meeting gets underway: they’re onscreen together for only a second or two, but the frame in which Swinton’s astonishingly opportunistic Dianna stands next to Miller’s winsome, eager Donald, is a moment to savor to say the least.

Wrapping up the proceedings are a delightfully roguish portrayal of Amy’s father by Colin Quinn, and beautiful portraits of real friendship and a healthy, loving stepfamily (between this one and Ant-Man, which also opens today, things may be looking up for blended families in cinema). Toss in several engaging cameos (including a sidesplitting knockoff of The Dog Whisperer), and we have the cherry on top.

Judd Apatow was the perfect choice to helm the job, but Trainwreck is Schumer’s movie, and it’s likely to become a classic – if perhaps a bit of a sleeper on the road to that esteemed status. In any case, Amy Schumer represents the best of who we are, even as she lays out some of the worst of who we are and inspires us to better, laughing all the way.

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