Gemma Creagh talks to Judd Apatow about how Trainwreck came together, working with Amy Schumer, his advice for directors and having a singsong in a Dublin pub.
James Bartlett takes another look at Trainwreck, which is out in cinemas now.
In the US at least, there has been much hullabaloo around this movie, with modern comedy hotshot director/producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin and others) saying that Schumer, a comedian known only in the States for her cable show Inside Amy Schumer is something raunchy, new and different.
Schumer wrote and stars in Trainwreck, and her character – and that of her sister Kim – use the same names and real life circumstances, including the fact that their father is really in a nursing home too.
Following her TV persona then, Amy of Trainwreck is a boozin’, tokin’ gal with a tendency for one-night stands, but nevertheless a desire to get on in life (whatever that means). She’s like many women we all know or have known, in fact. And she doesn’t seem to be a trainwreck, frankly.
This being a film – and based in reality – she and happily-married and pregnant with number two sister Kim (Brie Larson) clash a lot about this – and about the care of their sick pa Gordon (Quinn), who, while seemingly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, is still rude, rough and ready – and advised them both at a tender age that monogamy doesn’t work. Clearly only 50% of his daughters took that on board.
Anyway, Amy naturally hates sports and so is bummed to get an assignment from her magazine boss Dianna (a hilarious Tilda Swinton) writing about nerdy sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader). He’s a sweet charmer though, and so of course Amy gets drunk and beds him – but for some reason she breaks her rule and stays overnight.
Disaster has to be coming though, right? Surely something will sabotage all of this? Amy can’t be falling in love – can’t even be loved, maybe – and yes, it all falls apart later on (sort of), but then she decides to get it together in montage-quick time.
For the first half of the story, we’re in the territory of light comedy with some allusions to Woody Allen but with more raunch. There are some funny lines, some funny moments, Hader really works hard to take Amy as she is – which is actually rather unlikeable and selfish. It’s a problem that dogs her and the story throughout, as we’re never quite on her side and want her to be happy: she seems happy enough as she is anyway really, and perhaps, like she reasons, Aaron doesn’t end up with someone like her.
The second half is when the wheels come off a little, the emotional “drama” seeming highly contrived, the weak arguments and actions of both Amy and Aaron seemingly unlikely based on what we’ve seen before, and the tone veering more between heavy drama and smirky/smutty comedy gags (perhaps the legacy of writing a sketch comedy show). Mix in some unnecessary cameo appearances that stretch the running time too long as well, and it’s all gone very much towards fulfilling the title.
And then there’s the ending which, without spoiling it, certainly quashes any sense that Amy is being herself – or even just toning down some of the more embarrassing or dangerous elements bits – isn’t what a man/Aaron wants.
No, a man doesn’t want a woman who can act “like” a man and be quite happy. No, according to Schumer/Apatow, a man wants something specific – and women have got to fit their square peg into that round hole no matter what; so Amy does so.
It’s a shame, because there were many more ways the ending could have gone and we would have been happy with it, still feeling that Amy (at least) was changing a little in discovering a valuable relationship, but was still essentially herself. But no. What a pity.
DIR: Judd Apatow • WRI: Amy Schumer • PRO: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel • DOP: Jody Lee Lipes • ED: William Kerr, Peck Prior, Paul Zucker • DES: Kevin Thompson • MUS: Jon Brion • CAST: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson
Even if you’re not a fan, we’re all familiar with the bog-standard rom-com. Every year at least two sets of impossibly attractive Hollywood A-listers grin at us from buses and billboards. Those hetro couples standing back to back; perhaps she’s giving him a stern/disapproving look, while he shrugs/winks cheekily to camera. Oh, how she will fix him by act three. Trainwreck is a nice subversion of an overused trope.
What’s initially impressive about Trainwreck is the sheer weight of the marketing campaign behind it. Hot-as-s**t Amy Schumer and the accessible, popular Judd Apatow are both massive box -office draws. Unfortunately, what often happens with highly anticipated movies such as this, is the let-down. For example, we all thought Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was going to have more hilarious one-liners than it did. And The Phantom Menace. That is all. Just The Phantom Menace. Trainwreck certainly promised a lot; what could be more hilarious than a hot mess of a girl teamed with the nerdy, nice guy?
Shumer’s character, also an Amy, is an exaggerated version of her stand-up persona. Taught to avoid commitment at a young age by her philandering father, she spends her spare time boozing and meeting men. Amy’s forced to interview Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), an accomplished sports doctor, for the trashy magazine she works for – and finds herself more attached than she’d planned. I don’t blame her, the chemistry between Bill and Amy is ‘pulpable’. Bill’s performance is both relatable and absolutely adorable, while Amy’s shows an impressive range and depth we’ve not seen from her before. He works well with Amy’s comic timing It should also be noted that a good chunk of the film’s comedic highlights are delivered via the supporting roles of Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton, John Cena and LeBron James.
The difference between Trainwreck and most other Hollywood comedies is that the trailer and released clips do not contain every funny moment or plot point in the film. In fact, there’s a consistent vein of humour throughout, even in sombre moments. This is a perfect moment to pay tribute to a sex scene that is so awkward it would make Ricky Gervais cringe. However, ultimately the best thing about this film… and I’m going to pause as moments like this are so rare… is that it delivers more than it promised. It’s surprisingly insightful, and features moments of emotional depth delivered by likeable, complex characters.
16 (See IFCO for details)