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REVIEW: TRAINWRECK Smartly Subverts Traditional RomCom Formula

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. By now, we’re all familiar with this romcom formula, and it takes a lot of ingenuity to impress genre fans. Writer-superstar Amy Schumer’s TRAINWRECK does just that by taking that tired formula, reversing the gender roles, and making it feel fresh, unique and heartfelt. Well, as fresh and unique as it could be. Altogether sassy, smart, subversive and sweet, it’s remarkable what this comedy genius and her director Judd Apatow have done. This promises to be the most ironically titled film of the year. It’s a life-raft in a sea of sameness.

Men’s magazine writer Amy (Schumer) was taught one thing by her alcoholic father (Colin Quinn): Monogamy is evil. Though her sister Kim (Brie Larson) rejected this terrible advice, marrying and becoming a stepmom, Amy went the other way, becoming a radical woman of the ages who drinks way too much, smokes pot and sleeps with as many dudes as she likes. Lately, however, Amy hasn’t exactly been feeling she’s living her best life. Her world is rocked when she’s tasked by her editor (Tilda Swinton) to write about adorable sports-doctor-to-the-stars Aaron (Bill Hader), who values traditional relationships over one-night stands. As their burgeoning romance blooms, Amy learns to grow as a human being – but her deep-seated fears about commitment hold her back.

If you’re expecting this to be just as uproarious as her show, you should temper your excitement – at least just a smidge because this is not that kind of film. Similar to her show, there are raunchy, sometimes all-too-resonant bits. However, the energy and tone isn’t as provocative – and it shouldn’t be, as this is a totally different beast. She’s an artist and must exercise her creativity in other formats. Her feature subverts genre tropes just enough to make them feel organic, real and relatable. Role-reversal changes the game. Traditional romcom story beats are softened enough to where we, as cynical moviegoers, know they are there and can sense them sneaking up on us, but are still surprised when they happen. For instance, genre purists know an end of act two conflict is fast-approaching and yet, when it occurs, we’re taken off guard because it’s not the stereotypical “You lied to me!” moment.

Schumer makes for a wonderful leading lady. She’s funny, feisty and absolutely fearless. Think Irene Dunne with a potty mouth. It’s also fun to see Hader in a romantic lead role, handling regular guy vulnerabilities. LeBron James, who plays Aaron’s best friend LeBron James, and John Cena, who plays Amy’s steady guy, show great range, showing us that sports guys can be funny and hold an unexpected sweetness. Strong supporting performances from fellow comedians Bridget Everett, Nikki Glaser, and Rachel Feinstein add to the hilarity in an especially memorable baby shower scene. Also, eagle-eyed audiences will spot the WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN reunion in here.

Sadly, this can’t all be heaping praise. There’s a cameo-verloaded “intervention” scene that weighs down the tail end of the second act. It just doesn’t play as strongly as other scenes and, if you’re not a sports fan, at least one person’s appearance will be lost on you. Though there’s a fluidity to the narrative, in stereotypical Apatow-ian fashion, it feels 20 minutes too long (despite this being Apatow’s second shortest film at a little over 2 hours). Plus, this is yet another title to add to the “journalist falling in love with his/ her subject” subset of the genre.

While I fell hook-line-and-sinker for the ending (and even shed a tear), I’m not totally sure how it will play with some audiences who might feel she’s subverting herself too much for a man – especially after she railed against it in an earlier scene. But then again, in the movies, love requires the big gestures. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go organize a big gesture to tell Amy (and Judd) that I love them for making this film.

4 out of 5

TRAINWRECK is now playing.

 

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  1. 5 Legendary Behind-The-Scenes Stories From The Making of ‘TRAINWRECK’ « FreshFiction.tv - August 23, 2015

    [...] is now playing. You can read my review here and Cole’s review [...]