TRAINWRECK Review | SXSW 2015

     March 16, 2015

trainwreck

Trainwreck is listed as a SXSW work in progress, but I sure hope director Judd Apatow and his team don’t tweak the cut too much prior to the movie’s July 17th wide release because it’s already an especially strong piece. (Regardless, it is a work in progress so consider this more of a reaction than a formal review of the movie. We’ll have that for you closer to the release.)

Amy Schumer wrote the script and also stars in the film. It opens with a flashback of Amy’s father (Colin Quinn) trying to explain why he needs to get a divorce to his young daughters using an amusing doll analogy. (You wouldn’t want to be stuck playing with just one doll for the rest of your life, right?) Twenty-three years later, Amy’s sister Kim (Brie Larson) is starting a family in a quaint suburban neighborhood while Amy’s busy sleeping with every guy she can get her hands on. However, when Amy’s assigned to do a profile on a successful sports doctor (Bill Hader), she finds herself considering having a committed relationship for the first time ever.

This industry and specifically this genre need more Amy Schumer. Not only is the writing hilarious from start to finish, but she’s got an exceptionally delightful on-screen presence, which is absolutely vital to the success of the film. At the start, Amy’s dating a guy named Steven (John Cena) who hopes to “rule the CrossFit world.” He certainly has some serious quirks, but he’s sweet and truly wants to be with her. When Amy gets high behind his back, reveals she’s been sleeping with other guys and then refuses to talk it through with him because she’s too high to deal with it, it does come off as completely insensitive, but there’s just something about Schumer that encourages you to brush it off and go with it.

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Image via Universal Pictures

However, that’s only true early on in the film. Trainwreck isn’t a mean-spirited comedy that lets Amy get away with everything. The humor and absurdity of her behavior never wane, but the more you get to know her, the more you root for her to change her lifestyle for the better. When Hader’s character finally steps in, you immediately want the two to live happily ever after and when that doesn’t come easy, it’s more powerful than most romcom foils because Amy’s relationship with Dr. Conners isn’t just about scoring an idyllic relationship. It’s directly connected to the character’s personal arc as well. There’s definitely a cutesy quality to their romance, but Trainwreck also sells it as something Amy truly needs to move forward.

The only minor weak spot in that scenario is that Dr. Conners doesn’t have a single flaw. He’s kind, successful and extremely one-dimensional. Trainwreck is Amy’s story, so it does make sense to take that approach to Hader’s character, but a little over halfway through the movie we get a sequence that’s solely from Dr. Conners’ perspective. It’s a great scene that would be sorely missed, but it does feel a bit strange that Trainwreck becomes his movie for a quick second.

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Image via Universal Pictures

Quinn and Larson make a strong impression as Gordon and Kim particularly because they add a lot of dimension to Schumer’s character. Gordon has little to no filter so Quinn’s scenes do come with a good deal of amusing banter, but he’s also got an especially genuine, meaningful connection to Amy. As we’ve seen with many big screen siblings, Trainwreck clearly establishes that Kim and Amy are two very different people, but their contrasting relationships with Gordon are what give their mild rivalry a fresh additional layer. Without spoiling anything, there are a couple of things that happen to the family that feel a little too dramatic and abrupt, but all three manage to sell the scenarios well enough.

Tilda Swinton is also a big winner and almost totally unrecognizable as Amy’s editor at S’nuff Magazine. She’s your classic super tough, unforgiving boss who’s basically just there to create trouble, but Swinton takes the character to the max to great effect. There’s also a slew of quality cameos that work exceptionally well, particularly LeBron James playing himself. I’m not too familiar with his personality in real life, but on screen he’s surprisingly charismatic and charming.

Trainwreck isn’t perfect by any means, but based on what we saw at this screening, it does look like they’re very close to making the most of the material. As it stands, it’s already one of the more even and tighter films we’ve seen from Apatow in recent years.

Grade: B+

Click here for all of our SXSW 2015 coverage or browse the links below to check out my other reviews:

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Image via Universal Pictures

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