Amy Schumer Way Too Conventional in ‘Trainwreck’

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Average: 5 (1 vote) Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – In one of the most anticipated comedies of the summer, Amy Schumer breaks out of her edgy role as a stand-up and sketch artist to put her spin on the film universe in “Trainwreck.” She plays the lead role, is directed by the comic-reputable Judd Apatow, and she wrote the script. Why is it so “meh”?

It has funny parts, and laugh-out-loud moments, but it also has loads of dead air, cardboard characters, an inability to find an ending and worst of all, redemption. The character is a unrepentant drinker, pot smoker and promiscuous New Yorker, but the story has to give her a rehabilitation and throw in a family subplot that sinks like a stone. There is so much potential here, but most of it is lost in the need to “moralize” the Amy Schumer image. All of her edge is dulled to butter knife qualities, even though there are bits and pieces of the type of sass which makes her stand up comedy zing. If the film’s Amy character was more consistent with the darker territories Schumer explores in her other media, it would have played much better. Instead, we get a dirtier version of a Kate Hudson rom-com, and that’s not positive.

Amy Townsend (Ms. Schumer) has had one life lesson driven in to her head by her father (Colin Quinn) since she was a kid – monogamy doesn’t work. So although she is a notable magazine writer and lives a upper middle class life in New York City, she has stuck to her guns and is a unapologetic drinker, pot smoker and sexual adventurer (albeit one that never gets naked).

Amy Schumer, Bill Hader
Amy (Amy Schumer) and Dr. Aaron (Bill Hader) in ‘Trainwreck’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

When Amy’s Dad needs to go into assisted living, this causes a conflict between her and her sister (Brie Larson). At the same time, the new writing assignment from her editor (Tilda Swinton) is about a sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader). While preparing the interview, Amy and Aaron begin to fall for each other. Is this the end of the party, and the beginning of monogamous bliss?

Given Amy Schumer’s comic sensibility, would you expect monogamous bliss? I didn’t, and I don’t even follow her that closely. But that is what her character of Amy Townsend pursues, which interrupts the sharper comedy for morality questions, and “Freud light” Daddy issues. That kind of stuff is virtually in all ordinary romantic comedies, and it just becomes more glaring because it’s Schumer, who has gained her reputation on something beyond the ordinary.

It’s not like I don’t want her character to be happy, but why is happiness always pursuant towards finding the “boy”? The character of Aaron – while capably handled by the ex-Saturday Night Live talent Bill Hader – is practically a secular saint versus Amy’s scattered persona, and it becomes less-than-believable that he would have any trouble finding a woman in the first place (he’s a sports doctor with many celebrity clients) and given his nature, would put up with Amy’s difficulties in sealing the deal.

The film also had a lot of dead air, and after some promising laughs – including a few of the hard-to-come-up-for-air variety – it gets stuck in a soap opera-type drama involving family. Switching to drama in these types of films is risky, because if that thread gets too heavy, the laughs have trouble recovering. This came razor close to losing its sense of humor, and even as it recovered – starting with a super high concept intervention scene for Dr. Aaron – the laughs were thinner in the last third of the film. Also once Amy and Aaron start wrestling with their compatibility, the film seemingly wouldn’t end.

Amy Schumer, Bill Hader
Amy Confronts LeBron James in ‘Trainwreck’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

“Trainwreck” does have a few things going for it. First, the aforementioned hilarity in setting up the Amy character. For example, she’s dating a workout muscle guy, and she asserts that having sex with him is like making love to an ice sculpture (although she’s a bit more blunt). That “dirty girl” humor is what made her, and she needs to stick to it. Also, Bill Hader and a barely-recognizable Tilda Swinton (did she do the hard charging editor role as a satire? It’s possible.) handle their characters as well as can be asked, given that Schumer’s script draws them so vaguely. Oh yeah, and LeBron James steals a few scenes. Who knew he had comic chops?

Judd Apatow is missing as director, this is all Schumer’s party, and it is her imprint on it rather than his – she could have had anyone direct it. By the conclusion it’s just all so odd, as if the movie had been hijacked by some rom-com hacks, or studio executives, who insisted on making Schumer a typical gal, mooning for her “other.” Even movie-goers who like that sort of thing, weren’t coming to “Trainwreck” to see Amy do that.

”Trainwreck” is in theaters everywhere. Featuring Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton, LeBron James, Vanessa Bayer, Colin Quinn, Dave Attell, Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei. Written by Amy Schumer. Directed by Judd Apatow. Rated “R” senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2015 Patrick McDonald,

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