I have a problem with romantic comedies. I generally find them neither funny, nor romantic, which leaves little to no appeal. Amy Schumer’s giant leap from sketch comedy to the big screen, Trainwreck, manages to both romantic and hilarious.
Schumer wrote and stars in Trainwreck, with Judd Apatow directing. Her character, Amy, starts the film in a flashback to a frank discussion with her father. Dad (Colin Quinn), in this Instagram-filtered throwback, is explaining to Amy and her younger sister Kim (played later as a grownup by Brie Larson) why he and their mother were ending their marriage. Rather than going in to what would be a clichéd discussion of love waning, Dad instead makes an extended metaphor about wanting to play with more than one “doll” for the rest of his life. The girls agree with his toy-focused explanation and join in his anti-monogamy chant.
When we are brought to present day it is clear that Amy’s romantic maturity never strayed past what her father ground into her head. She has a wonderful and satisfying life, which she enjoys and celebrates, but is not concerned with long-term romantic involvement. Through intermittent voiceover we learn that she has rules for maintaining her sanity and enjoying the company of men. She never sleeps at their place or has them sleep at hers. She has one guy she sees more regularly than others (John Cena), but considers their movie dates the exception to her rules for attachment. All of this changes when she meets Aaron (Bill Hader).
Aaron is a sports medicine doctor whom she is profiling. Amy is a journalist, currently staffed at a trashy men’s magazine, assigned to Aaron’s story despite her distaste for sports in general. Everything that follows in this plot from here in terms of the overall story is quite ordinary. They fall in love. They have a fight. They realize that they are very different. The freshness of Trainweck does not come from the plot, it comes from the film’s attitude towards dating and love.
Simply put, Amy is never treated like a problem that needs fixing. She is not broken; she is evolving. Amy’s interest in men is healthy, not unexpected, and not harmful. Similarly Aaron’s lack of experience is not a problem or handicap either. They are very different people who love each other, and working through their differences together is a necessary struggle.
In addition to having a thrillingly mature approach to sexuality and compatibility, the film is unbelievably funny. Amy’s ability to effortlessly slide jokes into a natural conversation is one of the biggest strengths in the film and Apatow uses it to the near-perfect degree. She is honest and speaks from the heart, but can do so while staying true to her comedic roots.
The casting of the film is also brilliant and successful. Hader as Aaron is both endearing and hilarious. Larson as Kim can give Amy tough love when needed, and then instantly pivot into an enthusiastic suburban mom. Kim’s husband, Tom (Mike Birbiglia), is corny without being offensively obnoxious. Even everyone in Amy’s office is spot-on, from her boss (Tilda Swinton) to her buddy (Vanessa Bayer) to her fellow writers (Randall Park and Jon Glaser). But the most surprising casting decision, and arguably the best cast part in the film, was LeBron James as himself. A former patient, turned friend, James is Aaron’s confidant through his burgeoning romance with Amy. I would never have believed that James is capable of stealing comedic scenes from both Hader and Schumer, but he does in the film and it is damn funny.
A romantic comedy that is as sweet as it is sidesplitting should not be so difficult to find. Trainwreck fits the bill, and does so with little effort and a lot of maturity. This is not a film for teenagers or for people who are uptight about sex, and thank goodness for that.
Director: Judd Apatow
Film Length: 124 minutes
Release Date: July 17, 2015
Distributor: Universal Pictures