Thursday, November 26, 2015

"Trainwreck": Brings Out the Best of Two Artists

Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Amy Schumer is perhaps one of the most inconsistently funny people working in comedy today.  At times, she is the queen of feminist social commentary, crafting hilariously satirical situations via sketch comedy that is poignant and cutting.  Other times, though, she can come off as vindictive and as resentful of other women for qualities that she is self-deprecating of in her stand-up.  That’s why I ended up feeling a little hesitant about, Trainwreck, her new star vehicle which she also wrote.  Fortunately, though, she has some grade-A talent to back her up behind the director’s chair: Judd Apatow, a man who has seen little by way of success in recent years.  Yet these two comedians together have made one of the funniest films of the year, which I doubt they would have been able to separately.

As per usual, Amy Schumer autobiographicalizes her role by playing a character named Amy, who has problems with sexual intimacy, yet no problem with sexuality or using weed and booze to supplement her partying lifestyle.  Working for a gossip magazine that is clearly Schumer’s topical target for venting her feminist ire, Amy gets assigned to write a story about sports surgeon Aaron Connors (Bill Hader).  As she gets to know Aaron, she begins to feel actual romantic feelings for him, and as she navigates this new relationship she must tackle her issues with allowing affection into her life.

The comedy is pure Schumer, even if it is wrapped in the shell of a romantic comedy.  The jokes are often borderline adolescent in their reliance on sexuality and absurdism, but still relatable to what most people go through in their social lives, work, and relationships.  Schumer has a definite knack for portraying what it is like to live as a non-skinny girl in a world that seemingly only rewards women for physical “perfection,” and though this film is definitely restrained enough to keep its social commentary to a minimum, the perspective shines through in how Amy’s character seems to have built up her emotional barriers as a reaction to this.

This is where Judd Apatow comes in, offering a level of charm that we haven’t seen since his early films.  Whereas Schumer has provided the majority of the comedic influence, Apatow has inserted his trademark emotional influence to provide support for a relatively standard story.  Aaron seems to be genuinely confused when Amy is unable to make an emotional connection to him, and when she constantly wants to end things with him because it’s becoming too hard for her, he is strong and there for her regardless.  And yet, Apatow’s direction is smart enough not to imply that Aaron is saving Amy from her own emotions, but rather that it is Amy’s responsibility to navigate her own character arc.  It is great to see that Apatow has the capacity to treat a female protagonist with the amount of depth that he has given to male protagonists in his previous work.

All in all, Trainwreck is anything but.  It is a sly and witty film that combines the best qualities of two very funny people and cuts out most of what can make them relatively unpalatable.  The film is by no means perfect, with a few too many one-note side characters and a few missed jokes here and there, but overall, this is a hilarious film that I highly recommend, especially to those who have enjoyed anything that Amy Schumer or Judd Apatow have made in the past.  Hopefully this means that the two will collaborate in the future.  I’d love to see what else they’d have in store for us.

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