Amy Schumer’s ‘Trainwreck’ leaves the station with mostly strong reviews

18 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘I Really Like You': Amy Schumer Makes A Fine ‘Trainwreck’.

Early on in “Trainwreck,” directed by Judd Apatow, starring and written by Amy Schumer, it’s clear that the character of Amy Townsend, played by Schumer (we’ll call the character “Amy” and the real-life performer “Schumer”), has crossed the line from being a social drinker to being an antisocial drinker. At the world premiere of “Trainwreck” at the SXSW Film Festival last March, the loudest laughs from inside the theater came from the film’s director, Judd Apatow.James, of course, is coming to a big screen near you Friday night alongside comedians Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck.” The film centers on the awkwardly endearing love story between Schumer’s and Hader’s characters, with James playing Hader’s famous, but quirky best friend.The outspoken comedienne hasn’t held back in her shoot for the men’s magazine, not least in a cover snap in which she is seen wearing a Princess Leia-style bikini suggestively sucking C-3PO’s finger.If you’ve watched TV, read a magazine, walked around a major city, or simply been online in the last few weeks, it’s likely you’ve come across Amy Schumer at least a few dozen times.

Slumped down in a seat behind his new star, Amy Schumer, Apatow was so invested in the story about a thirtysomething magazine journalist who emerges from a series of one-night stands to begrudgingly find true love that he actually shushed a nearby, mortified fan who tried to open a candy wrapper. Other snaps feature Amy – whose new movie Trainwreck is released in the US this week – sitting naked in bed with Threepio and R2-D2, as well as posing provocatively with a lightsabre. The newly minted Emmy nominee has found plenty of praise and success for her Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer, been on the cover of GQ, Entertainment Weekly, and many more, and now she’s debuting in her first lead film role with the Judd Apatow-directed Trainwreck.

This habit eventually gets her into trouble—trouble that isn’t fun, trouble that she doesn’t want, trouble that could potentially cost her even more dearly than it actually does in the course of the movie’s action. He’s in the film’s starting lineup and, unlike the NBA Finals, he’s winning. (Although, actually, he still succeeded in that, too, considering he won the ESPY this week for “best championship performance.”) James plays a version of himself, which The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr calls, “the cleverest counter-self-portrait since Michael Cera’s coke-addled sex fiend in ‘This is the End.’ ” The film version of James pinches pennies and loves “Downton Abbey,” which is a good setup considering James is incredibly wealthy and his real-life favorite TV show is “Martin.” Indeed, the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis says, James delivers a “surprisingly limber comic presence,” a feat that seemingly surprised her as she called the NBA star’s inclusion in the cast “a heat-seeking gimmick.” But gimmick, it is not, says The Chicago Sun Times’s Richard Roeper. “James holds his own in scenes with Hader and Schumer, and that’s pretty darn impressive.” The word “impressive” also showed up in The Los Angeles Times’ Rebecca Keegan‘s review. For all of Amy’s self-deprecating exuberance and energetic self-determination—and, of course, comic genius, which meshes with Schumer’s—she’s getting away by the skin of her teeth. She said, “His performance reflects impressive off-court timing and a sense of humor about his own image.” “James is charming in the part,” The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore writes.

Though “Trainwreck” is a robust comedy, ranging from genial to zingy to uproarious, it’s essentially a romantic melodrama of self-abasement, self-deception, and self-discovery. She’s profiling a sports physician (Bill Hader), but the assignment quickly transforms into something, much to Amy’s surprise, that could possibly lead to a more long-term connection. Its resolution involves love, which, in Apatow’s view, is no renunciation or simplification, but just another mode of difficulty, a kind of fulfillment that emerges from characters who are already formed and who merely put themselves and each other to new tests.

The bare bones of the story, even the meticulous recounting of the plot, doesn’t come close to conveying the richness of the movie, moment by moment—the sharpness of the perceptions, the surprising turns of dialogue and mercurial flashes of performance, found in the characters’ glances (captured avidly by Apatow’s perceptive camera, wielded by the cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes) and acting. But beyond the film’s central question of Amy’s romance, there’s a few larger ones that loom over the film: Is Trainwreck another example of Schumer’s sharp, culturally relevant comedy, or does it fall prey to the trappings of the romantic comedies it seems built to criticize? For some, the answer seems to be a resounding yes, as EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his B+ review, called the film “ one of the freshest and filthiest coming-out parties in a while. Though she’s considered an excellent writer, she’s stuck on subjects that allow her mainly to snark, and she snarks to applause in print and snarks to appreciation in life. Rather than toning down [Schumer’s] prickly persona to conform to the studio cookie cutter, she stays true to what makes her laugh.” “Trainwreck isn’t so radical that it subverts the formulaically feel-good ending implied in its setup.

That’s pretty much his pitch after she says they shouldn’t mix romance and work. “Do you like me?” he asks. “Yeah,” she answers. “Yeah, see, I really like you.” Consider how weird it is that Hollywood romantic comedies so often position love as something that happens to people who don’t like each other. But Schumer gives their raunchy rom-com enough of her signature spikiness to prevent it from ever feeling predictable.” “What’s energizing and exciting about Amy, especially when compared with the sexless cuties populating rom-coms, in which female pleasure is often expressed through shopping, is that her erotic appetites aren’t problems that she needs to narratively solve and vanquish. Amy is not only ignorant of sports but dismissive of them, and when she meets Aaron, she tries to feign a modicum of interest, but he instantly picks up on her ploy and calls her on it.

She likes sex, thanks, as an early montage of her shuffling through various men nicely illustrates.” “In scenes like the argument with Hader’s Aaron — and even more so a stirring funeral eulogy she delivers — Schumer also reveals surprising range, displaying a true vulnerability that explains the tossed barbs and empty bottles. Both Schumer and Hader have the potential for such outsized silliness that when their performances are still and straightforward, it feels like it matters. His subtle, often wordless reactions perfectly punctuate scenes such as when sports-hating Amy claims her favorite team is the Orlando Blooms.” “The movie boasts the best title of any comedy this summer. He tells her, gently and humorously, that she did it terribly, even with a unique incompetence—but he also, on both occasions, lets her know that it doesn’t matter at all.

But she is just enough of a train wreck to be unpleasant, selfish and obnoxious.” “What makes the movie feel sharp and new is that Schumer acknowledges the self-loathing, the self-sabotage, that can roil the psyche of even a bright, sexually powerful woman in a society that mostly values supermodels. There’s neither antic sketch comedy nor blithering quirkiness in his performance, but a directness that goes together with the character’s substantial yet nerdy sincerity. Make no mistake: Trainwreck, which Schumer wrote and Judd Apatow directed, has some very traditional romantic comedy elements, including a big, implausible finish. She just plays her observations for comedy, sometimes rueful, more often outrageous, while knowing the sadness will leak through on its own.” “And while the picture is occasionally very funny — because when she lets loose, Schumer does have a fantastic, loosey-goosey wiliness — it also feels carefully constructed to make its points, chief among them that men can get away with all kinds of bad or crazy behavior that women can’t.” “With films such as Funny People and This Is 40, Apatow has toyed with finding the right blend of the serious and the hilarious and finally hits it here. Whether you end up liking Amy or not, you feel for her on her journey, and that’s a testament to the director/star chemistry.” “Schumer has never had anything like a leading film role, but self-revealing stand-up and a TV series have limbered her up for the job.

If she doesn’t have quite the range of some other nascent stars Apatow has worked with, her writing makes up for it, and she’s comfortable enough with the director’s trademark improvisation that Trainwreck plays as if it were fully scripted.” “The film is full of terrific sequences, moments and notions—you don’t care if it feels hit or miss when there are many more hits than misses. But then Amy’s life gets to be no laughing matter, the tone turns tentative, the jokes turn sour, the momentum slows and the previously irrepressible energy feels false.

It’s almost as if he has been wearing a mask until now and has finally been allowed to let it drop; he’s a welcome presence as someone like himself. I thought, “This is a very unique personality and I’d like to see these stories in movies.” In the middle of “Freaks and Geeks,” Jake Kasdan and I were watching Seth Rogen shoot this scene and we went, “We think he’s a movie star.” It just hit us in a flash. The filmmakers try to regain their footing with storytelling strategies that include a fantasy device notable only for its leaden execution, and a grotesquely overproduced climax.

But the problem proves insoluble, because the love affair between Amy and Aaron has itself been a fantasy from the start; in the end it can’t withstand serious scrutiny. “ “Though a movie like Trainwreck sounds filthy enough, it cleans itself up as it goes along—setting off at a rough lick, yet soon displaying signs of moral decency. For instance, “Trainwreck” has the funniest scene that I’ve seen in a movie since the quaalude freakout near the end of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and, like Scorsese’s scene, the one in “Trainwreck” displays a magnificent collaboration between director and actors.

Universal Studios has been very supportive of us trying to break new people. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” worked well for them, and “Knocked Up” for Seth and Katherine [Heigl], and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” with Jason Segel. As in previous Apatow films, the temptations of togetherness eventually drown the siren call of the boudoir. “ “Amy Schumer makes you laugh till it hurts.

It’s a medical scene that involves both physical and verbal comedy and that derives its humor from the crucial intersection of performance and visual composition. The great goof opens with a sly double entendre regarding “gait” and “gate” but it follows with an inspiration that’s as much Jacques Tati as Jerry Lewis, as mechanically precise as it is freely inventive. In the lead role and as screenwriter — with director Judd Apatow expertly harnessing her energy, not taming it — Schumer is a whole summer of comic fireworks wrapped in one ballsy package. The fundamental trope of Apatow’s films is the fuckup whose chaos is no free-spirited, uninhibited self-expression or even self-indulgence but rather a form of self-destructive, un-self-conscious turmoil that nonetheless bears within itself the seeds of enduring love.

Apatow is a romantic whose attraction to outsized, wild characters implies a perception of dimensions of grandeur and sensibility in what seem to be crudeness, bitterness, ugliness, or naïveté. But there’s something about the moment, if you don’t succeed, you’ll never be able to be the star of a movie again that lights a fire under people’s asses. He’s initially put off by the apparently trivial subject matter but comes to admire what she does with it—and takes an interest in reading her unpublished writings, which she offers him. It’s as if Schumer and Apatow were dramatizing both the inescapably and essentially personal aspect of their artistic careers and the mutually crucial force of their artistic collaboration. I didn’t realize it until we worked on “Knocked Up” — a little piece of behavior, the way [my wife] Leslie Mann and I talked to each other was funny, and people related to it.

There’s a major subplot and backstory involving Amy’s family life: her philandering and alcoholic father, Gordon (Colin Quinn), who is afflicted with multiple sclerosis and can no longer care for himself; her married sister, Kim (Brie Larson), Kim’s nerdy husband, Tom (Mike Birbiglia), and Tom’s nerdier son, Allister (Evan Brinkman), Kim’s stepson. That’s what I learned from Garry Shandling: “The closer you are to the truth, the better the comedy will be.” I never do any rewriting [on another writer’s script]. In their presence—and, especially, to Kim—Amy lets fly with her acerbic perceptions in one-liners that are as sharply observed as they are lacerating. Amy may be amazingly talented but she’s also narrow; she calls the world-famous organization for which Aaron volunteers “Doctors With Borders” and mocks his volunteer work.

She comes from a narrow and limited background, which she never sought to widen in her adult life and which—because of her fast tongue, speaking what she thinks impulsively and without self-questioning, without the infinitesimal moment of lag time that suggests that what she doesn’t get instantly isn’t there to be mocked and deprecated but may be something she can learn from—comes forth in her spontaneous sharpness as cavalier indifference. Moments after meeting Aaron, Amy makes a crude remark about race, which is only a short step from a grossly racist remark that her father makes to a nursing-home orderly who wants to tend to the deep cut in Gordon’s brow. The orderly, who is black and speaks English with a strong accent, explains that he was a doctor in his home country; he doesn’t flinch at Gordon’s ugly response. I remember Jonah Hill when he did “Superbad,” you sensed for him things that changed overnight in terms of enormous recognition the weekend after the movie opened.

Yet, as important as the blustery, acerbic, vital, wild, and destructive Gordon is to the movie and to Amy’s persona, the absent mother looms equally over “Trainwreck”—Amy and Kim’s mother died some time after the divorce, but clearly a long time ago. Amy’s response is to identify with her father; Kim’s response is to become, to Allister, the mother that he doesn’t have (there’s a funny yet touching riff on the fact that he calls her “Mother”). All of them, especially if they’re any good, aren’t easy; they require devotion, effort, self-questioning—and they’re no less original, distinctive, or idiosyncratic than the people who enter into them. A family of two or three or four is no more conventional than the family of one; enduring relationships have no more codes and customs than transitory ones or, for that matter, than solitude.

Every person is a strange and singular tangle of distinctive interests, desires, impulses, tones, and overtones, carried in the voice, the physique, the bearing. (The artistic proof of this idea is in Apatow’s inspired casting, which stretches far beyond the usual comic suspects to include LeBron James, John Cena, and Norman Lloyd.) Astonishingly, “Trainwreck” runs a bit more than two hours. It seems shorter, but, as ever in Apatow’s films, it’s missing an hour of footage—the one that I call the “Cassavetes hour,” the time in which a couple seeking to build their relationship on a more solid foundation knock heads in self-revelations and accusations, give voice to fears and suspicions, anger and dreams. Yet “Trainwreck” comes closer to it than his other films do and, audaciously, approaches it from the other side, of parody and disaster rather than confession and redemption. There’s actually a scene here that invokes it—a striking moment when the couple is on the verge of a breakdown and Aaron tells Amy that it’s not the moment to separate but to have a fight and talk out their differences. That scene masks its horror in humor; almost all the dialogue (or, rather, monologue) is left off the soundtrack, but its upshot shows it to have been cruel, insensitive, one-sided.

What takes place afterward and leads up to the film’s rapid, antic, and symbolic ending (a prelude to the hour of mutual self-revelation that could follow it) is a key moment of self-definition, a portrait of self-becoming, through work and creation, that suggests something else about the Cassavetes hour, about Apatow’s keen understanding of Cassavetes’s films, and about the ideas that he and Schumer share: the inseparability of work and love, the importance of a shared enterprise to intimacy.

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