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Worth A Look: 30.77%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 7.69%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 7 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"That's Not Her Style"
5 stars

One might have thought that in the year 2015, we as a people could have finally pulled together as one to recognize the seemingly indisputable fact that women could indeed be funny. Sad to say, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Michael Eisner, the Adonis-like former CEO of Disney, pulled out this exceptionally rancid chestnut during a speaking engagement when he proclaimed that it was almost impossible to find women that were truly funny--especially ones that also happened to be easy on the eyes as well. (Goldie Hawn happened to be there on stage with him but he justified this by saying that she wasn't included in that grand generalization because she didn't act as though she thought she was that attractive.) Far be it for me to suggest that Eisner--whose rugged good looks made him a pinup star amongst readers of "Fortune" and "Tiger Beat" alike and whose keen taste in comedy led to the making of such instant classics as "The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag," "Straight Talk" and "The Jerky Boys: The Movie"--might be slightly mistaken with this particular observation but just in case, I would like to recommend that the transcendentally handsome Eisner should immediately rush out and see "Trainwreck," the triumphant big-screen debut for the hilarious and, yes, attractive comedienne Amy Shumer and then follow that up by sitting down to eat a lot of shit. While the rest of you can skip that second step if you would prefer, you definitely want to seek out "Trainwreck" at all because it is by far the funniest American comedy of the year to date. Granted, that assertion might not seem like much in reference to a time span that has offered up such crimes against comedy as "Entourage," "Hot Pursuit" and "Ted 2," it would be a standout even at a time when the genre was firing on all cylinders.

The film begins with a flashback as an embittered dad (Colin Quinn), whose long-running philandering, alcoholism and general assholery has finally earned him the boot from his long-suffering wife, lecturing his two young daughters about the impossibility of monogamy using the younger one's dolls as a wildly inappropriate frame of reference. When the story picks up two decades later, it is clear that his words of alleged wisdom have rubbed off on older daughter Amy (Shumer), whose nights are a relentless blur of booze-fueled one-night-stands that rarely extend to the crack of dawn (though the one walk of shame that she does end up making in the course of the film is pretty epic) and almost never involve a second date. The closest thing she has to a relationship is a friends-with-benefits deal with a cheerfully dopey bodybuilder (John Cena) whose attempts at dirty talk in the sack need to be heard to be believed, albeit from a safe distance. By comparison, Amy's younger sister, Kim (Brie Larson), has gone the opposite direction with a picture-perfect husband (Mike Birbiglia), a slightly creepy stepson (Evan Brinkman) and a child of her own on the way, developments to which Amy can only barely conceal her basic contempt.

Amy writes for "Snuff," a sub-"Maxim" lad magazine where she and her fellow coworkers (including Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park and Jon Glaser) live in constant terror of their imperious boss (an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton), and for her latest assignment, she is to write an article about Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), a new star in the field of sports medicine who counts such superstars as Kobe Bryant, Tony Romo and Amar'e Stoudemire as his clients. Their initial meeting begins inauspiciously--a devout sports non-enthusiast, Amy claims otherwise and finds herself making up the names of her alleged favorite teams--but as time goes on, they begin to hit it off and one night, they go from dinner to drinks to a trip back to his place that doesn't end until the next morning. At first, Amy is appalled by this--even more so when Aaron has the weird audacity to actually call her the next day--but much to her shock and amazement, the two of them become a wobbly sort of couple.

At this point, if you have seen more than your fair share of romantic comedies over the years, you can probably guess what happens next--the misunderstandings, the montages, the relationship-threatening fights that seem to occur only because the screenplay needs some kind of conflict to conclude the second act and the grand public gesture of romantic reconciliation--complete with a crowd of people slow-clapping their approval of the happiness of two people they have never met--that inevitably brings the proceedings to a conclusion. Thankfully, these things for the most part never happen in Schumer's screenplay and if they do (such as in a montage directly inspired by Woody Allen's "Manhattan"), they are given a wicked spin. Instead, she is more interested in exploring the reality of what happens when someone who hasn't had a serious relationship in years and someone who hasn't had a serious relationship in their life decide to come together. Most of this is played for laughs, of course, but the story does delve into more serious waters as well, such as in the scenes in which Amy and Kim argue about the financial burdens of keeping their father, now suffering from MS, in an assisted living facility. Some might argue that these scenes, for example, have little to do with the story at hand but they do a nice job of helping to establish Amy's character and showing that she does have the capability to be a loving and empathic person, even if she chooses to never show that side of herself if she can possibly help it.

"Trainwreck" is the latest directorial effort from Judd Apatow, who is arguably the leading comedic impresario of the era--if you can think of a major comedic force to come along in the last two decades, there is an excellent chance that he has worked with them in some capacity during that time. While his ability for scouting out and nurturing new and unique voices in comedy is without peer, his work as a film director has been a little more uneven. He scored big with his 2005 debut "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," a film that took a nifty comedic premise and brought it brilliantly to life with an approach that deftly mixed together moments of great comedic inspiration (thanks in no small part to the casting of actors ready and able to improvise hilarious riffs on the stuff that was already on the page) with real and recognizable human emotions. His 2007 follow-up, "Knocked Up," was another strong blend of outrageous humor and sentiment but it also began to reveal a couple of weaknesses in Apatow's working methods--chief among them a tendency to let some improv-heavy scenes go on seemingly forever, bloating the running time in the process, and his unerring belief that Leslie Mann is the single funnies, sexiest and most generally appealing woman to ever step in front of a movie camera (a view that can be perhaps explained by the fact that she is also Mrs. Judd Apatow in real life). These flaws would be later exacerbated in the barely-watchable meanderings of "Funny People" (2010) and the completely unwatchable ones found in "This is 40" (2012), an act of big-screen navel-gazing that gave viewers amusing supporting turns from Albert Brooks and Megan Fox and virtually nothing else of comedic or cinematic value in what may well be the most expensive home movie ever made.

After the creative dead-end of "This is 40," Apatow must have recognized that he needed to make some changes in his filmmaking approach and with "Trainwreck," he has definitely done that by jettisoning most of his regular troupe of performers (though this film is hardly lacking in star power as a result), a shift in location from Los Angeles to New York and, most importantly, by taking a chance of Amy Schumer as both a screenwriter and as an actress. Yes, she is one of the hottest names in comedy around and her sketch comedy show "Inside Amy Schumer" has won raves across the board for her off-center approach to dealing with touchy subject material ranging from rape in the military to how Hollywood treats actresses who they feel are no longer as sexually desirable as they were a few years earlier. However, writing a ten-minute sketch and a full-length movie are two very different things that require two separate approaches. Happily, Schumer realizes this as well because her screenplay, despite a couple of lumpy moments, is one of the better constructed comedies in recent memory--it has things to say, the confidence to say them and the skill to do so in a dramatically engaging and extremely funny manner without delving into complete silliness.

Schumer also contributes a highly engaging central performance as Amy, a woman for whom the phrase "It's complicated" seems to have been invented. When some comedians make the move from the club to the soundstage, they sometime have a problem making the necessary shifts needed to create a convincing performance as an actor--too often, you have people knocking out the jokes but just standing there in a zombie-like state while the other actors are doing their thing. Schumer, on the other hand, commits totally to the part and makes Amy into a real person and not just a conduit for one-liners. Of course, she handles the comedic material like a champ but when the story moves into more serious waters, she is just as good and convincing in those moments as well. Apatow has surrounded Schumer with a big and gifted cast of talented supporting players and Schumer more than rises to their standards--even in one-on-one scenes with an actress as prodigiously talented as Tilda Swinton (who is simply hysterical here), she holds her own and then some. Since the Oscars only rarely acknowledge the existence of comedy, it is unlikely that Schumer's performance will merit any serious consideration for year-end awards but in a fair and just world, her work her would definitely land her in the mix.

"Trainwreck" does contain a couple of flaws--like most Apatow joints, it runs a little long at nearly two hours thanks to extraneous material that could have easily been jettisoned (such as most of the stuff set at the magazine) and Schumer's script contains a couple of bits (such as one where, having hit rock bottom, Amy has an attempted assignation with the magazine's young intern (Ezra Miller) that gets very strange very quickly) that might have played well on her show but which seem a little forced here when compared to the more emotionally direct material. However, those seem like decidedly minor concerns when compared to its very real and very raunchy triumphs. This is a comedy that has the bravery to take a lot of chances and the means of pulling them off. Even the big name cameos on display here are done with far more wit and intelligence than usual, especially in the genuinely hilarious and winning turn by LeBron James as a sort of Jack Benny caricature of himself--relentlessly cheap and highly inquisitive about his friend Aaron's resurgent love life. In fact, if this film weren't so overtly a triumph for Schumer, it is LeBron James who would be receiving all the comedic accolades here. Face it, any movie that can make someone as generally loathsome as LeBron James into someone both funny and likable has got to be something special and that is "Trainwreck" in a nutshell. Who knows--maybe her next time out, she can pull off another miracle and make Michael Eisner seem funny and likable.

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originally posted: 07/17/15 01:19:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell funny but 2 long 4 stars
12/06/15 Langano Don't believe the hype, very few laughs. 2 stars
8/24/15 DillonG While not perfect, Amy concocted a hilarious movie in a unique manner. 4 stars
7/29/15 orpy Not in the category of other fives; entertaining but probably a 3.5 4 stars
7/19/15 Flipsider Funny movie! But the plot is a bit weak. 4 stars
7/19/15 Luisa Very funny, love Amy, a must see! 5 stars
7/18/15 Bob Dog Surprisingly romantic - - loved it! 5 stars
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  17-Jul-2015 (R)
  DVD: 10-Nov-2015


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