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Trainwreck •••1/2

Trainwreck_posterStarring: Amy SchumerBill HaderBrie Larson
Director: Judd Apatow
Screenplay: Amy Schumer
Comedy/Romance, Rated: R
Running Time: 125 minutes
Release Date: July 17, 2015


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Well Scott, I thought this movie was about trouble on the B&O Railroad.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

No, Greg. This is a comedy starring the brilliant, up-and-coming Amy Schumer. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to Amy (Amy Schumer) who is a hard-working journalist at a women’s magazine called “S’nuff”. Amy is also a hard-playing gal with many suitors and a steady boyfriend-ish guy. She is sent on a job to interview a popular sports doctor named Aaron Connors (Bill Hader). Amy and Aaron hit it off – which surprises Amy because she doesn’t want a committed relationship. Hilarity ensues as Aaron attempts to nice-guy convince Amy that they were meant to be together.

Amy and Aaron begin dating and Amy does her best to remain true to her pattern by sabotaging the relationship. But Aaron sticks with her and they begin to fall for each other. Amy’s dad (Colin Quinn) reminds her of who she is, a person like him (her dad) who is incapable of commitment. Amy manages to break up with Aaron but learns her lesson, giving us the Hollywood happily-ever-after ending.

Amy Schumer is a bawdy comedian whose stand-up routines and her hit TV show Inside Amy Schumer deal with many topics, not the least of which is the American perception of women in the media and the workplace. Trainwreck is a natural extension of these routines. I’ve seen Schumer in an interview where a reporter asks her if Amy (in the movie) is a “skank.” Not missing a beat she says “Were you thinking of your mom just then?” Amy Schumer is a force to be reckoned with.

The movie is a lot of fun. Amy is confounded by Aaron’s consistent politeness at calling the day after sex, bringing flowers, and asking her a second date. Aaron has to confront Amy’s sleep-around lifestyle and gets unnerved by it. Amy, meanwhile, gets unnerved by her own feelings of affection for Aaron. Sadly, the movie ends with the two getting together and Amy becoming a one-woman-man. As you point out, Scott, it’s pretty much a Hollywood rom-com ending.

Trainwreck is an innocuous, enjoyable comedy that owes its success entirely to the comedic genius of Amy Schumer. This movie would likely have bombed if any other actress had played the lead character. Trainwreck works because Schumer knocks our socks off with her brilliant portrayal of the “modern woman” who is professionally successful but who is also an ardent commitment-phobe.

Greg, you use the term “sadly” to describe the ending. The movie must end on this note if we are to have any kind of hero’s journey. We learn early on that Amy must overcome a dark mentor (her dad), who taught his kids that “monogamy is unrealistic.” To this movie’s credit, the dad isn’t a bad person, and in fact Schumer remains very close to him despite his bad mentoring about relationships. Schumer transforms herself from a commitment-phobe to a woman who is ready to embrace commitment. She accomplishes this feat by learning the way that most heroes do – by suffering a big humiliation that has serious consequences. Specifically, she has one last promiscuous fling, this time with an underage guy, which gets her fired from her job.

Indeed, I say “sadly” because it cops out to the norms of society that I think Schumer is railing against. There’s a montage where she throws out her booze, candy, chips, etc… and “cleans up her act.” I much prefer the ending to Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001) where her Mr. Darcy accepts Bridget just as she is – cigarettes, booze, and extra padding. Amy Schumer is clever enough to come up with a more insightful ending.

However, I see your point about the transformation. It’s an abrupt one brought on by her coming to a very low point in her life. She has to pick herself up, dust herself off, and start all over again. So, yeah. It’s a nice little hero’s journey. But not every transformation has to end with accepting social norms. As in Bridget Jones’ case, sometimes the transformation is in realizing that you’re fine just as you are.

Good point. The villain in this story is Schumer herself. She is compelled to overcome her fear of commitment, and she also has a slight problem with alcohol. Stories of heroes who must triumph over their inner demons are common in Hollywood. We saw the “self” as villain in 2014 movies such as Non-Stop and Get on Up. For these movies to work, the hero must be someone we truly care about so that we, the audience, can root hard for them to overcome their issues. Schumer is such a character in Trainwreck. She is instantly likeable and remains so throughout the movie, even during scenes when she is embarrassing herself.

The rest of the supporting characters all do their jobs well. The dad may be a dark mentor, but his degenerative disease makes him a sympathetic figure. LeBron James is surprisingly good as Aaron’s good friend and confidante. Amy leans on a few girlfriends for help and they do a serviceable job in this role. Aaron is a sweetheart of a guy whom we know is good for Amy, if only she would see the light. All these characters are good but it is Schumer herself who is the unequivocal star of the show.

It’s true Amy is her own worst enemy, but she has a few oppositional characters to deal with. Not the least of which is her go-go-go boss Diana (Tilda Swinton) who keeps reminding her of her flaws. There’s an interesting rom-com switcheroo here too. Amy has a best friend Nikki who keeps telling Amy to play the field and run away from commitment-man Aaaron. Meanwhile, Aaron has empathetic-verging-on-sensitive buddy Lebron James telling him to shield his heart and not get hurt.

Also, there’s Amy’s sister who has settled down with a very stable man and his stable son. They represent the life Amy could have if she would give up her wild ways. I was very happy that Schumer didn’t cop out completely and have the young boy turn into a brat at the end of the movie. This is a stereotypical turnabout that she avoided. He turns out to be a nice, well-adjusted little boy who loves his Aunt Amy.

Trainwreck is a bouncy, witty, romantic comedy that provides giggles along with a charming love story. Amy Schumer now has her breakout movie and I anticipate an avalanche of Schumer movies in the coming years. Trainwreck features a female lead character, beset with self-destructive tendencies, whom we laugh at and care about. It’s a formula we’ve seen before many times but Schumer’s unique comedic genius allows this film to soar above most of the rest. I award this movie 4 Reels out of 5.

As I’ve noted, the hero’s journey is rock solid, with Amy cast into an unfamiliar world of steady romantic love, which makes her squirm and rebel in discomfort. She has dark mentoring to overcome, which she does with help and patience from her loving and adorable boyfriend Aaron. If Aaron is anything less than a good man, we’d be disappointed with this fairytale ending. For me, it works just fine. I give this hero’s journey 3 Heroes out of 5.

The supporting characters aren’t terribly noteworthy but they all play their roles in either helping or hindering our hero Amy. In a way, Trainwreck reminds me of an early Jim Carrey movie. In those films, Carrey’s immense talent and energy made everyone around him rather forgettable in comparison. Schumer is such a character. No disrespecting the supporting cast, but this is Schumer’s movie. I’ll still give this cast 3 out of 5 Cast points.

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Trainwreck is a lot of fun. It falls in line with such predecessors as Bridesmaids and The Heat. It gives us a non-traditional look at a non-traditional romance. I laughed out loud. But I was disappointed at the traditional ending. I give Trainwreck 3 out of 5 Reels.

Schumer creates a fully-developed three-dimensional hero. She is flawed, lovable, idiosyncratic, and smart. It’s hard not to get invested in her story. She undergoes a nice Hollywood-style transformation and turns into the girl next door. I give her 3 out of 5 Heroes.

And the supporting cast was quite excellent. Amy had her best friend Nikki. And LeBron James as Aaron’s buddy was a surprise standout. The sister’s family was a nice contrast to Amy’s wild party life. I give them 3 out of 5 Cast points.

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