Judd Apatow returns with his latest comedy, the rom-com Trainwreck, but this time only as director. The writing credit here goes to its star, comedienne Amy Schumer, hoping to add to her own growing career but to help invigorate Apatow’s own film oeuvre, which has been disappointing as of late with the unfunny and ironically titled Funny People and the mediocre This is 40. Schumer brings a bracing rawness that Apatow films have been lacking as of late, though the results are never more than just a sometimes funny, but ultimately disappointing film.
Amy (Amy Schumer) is a career woman determined not to let any man hold her down, as her sports-loving father (Colin Quinn) is fond of saying: monogamy isn’t realistic. Her sister Kim (Brie Larson) has just about had it with her curmudgeon cheating womanizer of a father; she hasn’t fully forgiven him for selfishly tearing apart their family and now has her own family with the inoffensive and docile Tom (Mike Birbiglia) and his dorky son Allister (Evan Brinkman). Amy, on the other hand, is compassionate towards her father, even adopting his sexual mantra for life.
Despite her disdain and sentiment towards sports she feels for her father when Kim rips apart a Mets poster and contemplates selling off his beloved memorabilia collection. Amy’s love life is far from idyllic with the only glimpse of a stable relationship with the clueless meathead, possibly gay, body trainer Steve, played by WWE superstar John Cena. But as he comes to find out, Amy is not one to be held down by such trappings as relationships, having many other men to satisfy her at the press of a button.
This can’t last forever, of course, and things start rolling forward when her boss, the acerbic Dianna (Tilda Swinton) at the asinine men’s magazine she works at, sends Amy to interview the sport industry’s medicine doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader). She’s an incredible writer hoping for a promotion to editor, so success is a must.
Aaron works with some of the biggest names in sports, from Amar’e Stoudemire to his best friend LeBron James, playing a version of himself. Kim, meanwhile, is contemplating sending her father to a cheaper nursing home, his presence a topic of recurring conflict between the siblings. This leads to Amy having a panic attack while running on a treadmill while meeting with Aaron, which leads to dinner, subsequent drinks, sex, etc, all of which ends with Amy reluctantly agreeing to date him. Unsure at first what his true intentions are, it turns out she’s really into him and he’s into her – what could be better?
This is where the film becomes divisive. The first hour is subversive and real; how often do we get an empowering female careerist chasing after her own desires and goals? The answer is not often enough, and seldom do we see such an empowered female role like we have here. With her critically acclaimed Comedy Central series Trainwreck seemed ripe for Schumer to make her mark in film with something meaningful. Alas, the latter half of the film is too neat and cute as a way to satisfy those expecting a genre film that the film predictably falls into line with traditional rom-com.
Those expecting a typical rom-com will get that indeed, but at least its not as bad as most of its mediocre competition. Trainwreck is actually well written, despite its thematic conflict, and it’s neither hackneyed nor derivative. However, the film changes pace in its latter half, and goes through a familiar Apatow second-act dawdling, transforming into the very thing it appears to protest and deconstruct. It becomes so complacent with being a typical Hollywood rom-com that it effectively splits the film in to two very different movies.
What Trainwreck does wrong, however, is taking a stance which completely negates its original position, becoming a neatly organized but discordant genre picture. The film is a paradox of the best that rom-coms can offer and what a strong female writer with a radical view on female sexuality in this conservatively sexual culture can offer. But these ideas can and often do clash, rendering the whole thing pointless. The film says one thing, disregards its previous adamancy, settling for something less; much like Amy Schumer’s lead character ultimately does.