In the opening scene of Trainwreck, the new film directed by Judd Apatow, two young girls are told by their father “Monogamy isn’t realistic” and they feed the line back to him as a mantra. It’s the setup for grown-up Amy’s strict one-night stand lifestyle as an adult and the jumping off point for the funniest, smartest, most hilarious film of the summer.
More widely known for her Comedy Central stand-up her eponymous TV show, Amy Schumer plays Amy Townsend, a single girl in New York City with one of those jobs that affords her tremendous free time and an apartment that make you think, “Wait, how much does working at a magazine earn you?” Still, job provides the film with some of its most pointed and funny criticisms. The magazine where Amy works, called S’Nuff, is a sort of high-end tabloid meets Cosmopolitan men’s magazine where editor in chief Tilda Swinton asks for a story wondering if garlic makes semen taste any different. Swinton, who is almost unrecognizable here, gives her Anna Wintour best and not in the same way that say, Meryl Streep does it in The Devil Wears Prada. There is definitely the air of Swinton speaking from her power position with no regard for what or if anyone else is saying anything, it’s really all about her. It’s one of her loosest, most fun performances in a long while. Plus, Ezra Miller pops up as an intern and that gives us a fun little We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion.
Amy is given a lightweight interview of a sports doctor named Dr. Aaron Conners but she knows nothing about sports and couldn’t be more unenthused by this piece. She fumbles her way through their initial meeting in which she identified her favorite sports team as the Orlando Blooms. Charmed, Aaron asks Amy out for a drink. One drink turns to ten and she ends up sleeping at his house, a big no-no in Amy’s world.
Then something really remarkable happens. Aaron (played by Bill Hader, who is just perfect here) is having brunch with his best friend who just happens to be LeBron James. The interaction between the two is LeBron asking for details about their encounter. At the same time Amy’s co-worker Nikki (played by SNL’s Vanessa Bayer) is listening to Amy’s side of the story, freaking out that this guy is being all clingy and calling her after sex. “What were you, blackout drunk?” In a regular ‘sex comedy’ this would be pretty normal. Dude bros hashing over the chick one of them just banged and freaking out over her calling and being all clingy, but in Trainwreck the script is gender-flipped and it’s not just a cheap ploy, it’s a paradigm shift. Granted, while the premise of a journalist falling for their subject is certainly nothing new (we’ve already seen it twice this year with Top Five and Fifty Shades of Grey) it’s still a great foundation for telling this story.
Of course, as with any romantic comedy, their relationship starts out pretty great; they get along, they party a lot but then it starts to sour a bit. Aaron is concerned about Amy’s level of drinking. Which, by the way, is not usually a big ha-ha topic in a rom-com and it’s dealt with and talked about here quite deftly. There is also the eventual scenario in which Amy has to make a big decision about her priorities; will she choose her job or Aaron? Does she have to in 2015? That isn’t to say their fights and arguments aren’t still peppered with spot on jokes. When Amy asks Aaron how many girls he’s slept with he says, “I’ve slept with three women.” Amy’s reply, naturally, is “Me too.” There is heart in this comedy and some real drama and pathos too. Schumer is consistently funny but she also shines in the film’s more dramatic moments, which is a welcome surprise and shows her tremendous range and versatility.
The mileage that Apatow and Schumer get from their superstar sports co-stars is kind of amazing. Like, hybrid MPG amazing. LeBron James as a Downton Abbey-loving softie has pretty great comic timing. Wrestler John Cena really plays with his masculine image and is explosively funny as one of Amy’s friends with benefits who is obsessed with his own physique and maybe that of his fellow gym buddies too.
The only issue I have with the film, and this happens with most Apatow movies, is that it’s a bit long. Some better editing could have tightened this up and brought it under two hours (it’s 2h 2m), especially ditching the movie-in-the-movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei. It’s not nearly funny enough to be the parody it’s trying to be and it would have been better with this left on the cutting room floor.
Trainwreck opens wide on July 19th and is distributed by Universal Pictures.