Combustible Celluloid
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With: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Tilda Swinton, LeBron James, Randall Park, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller, Mike Birbiglia, Norman Lloyd, Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, Cliff "Method Man" Smith, Tim Meadows, Amar'e Stoudemire, Matthew Broderick, Chris Evert, Marv Albert, Tony Romo
Written by: Amy Schumer
Directed by: Judd Apatow
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
Running Time: 125
Date: 07/17/2015

Trainwreck (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Train' Shots

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With Trainwreck, Amy Schumer wrote her first feature screenplay, which was then entrusted to Judd Apatow to direct; the result is, like all Apatow films, too long and quite messy. But it has that unique combination of outrageous comedy slowly and unexpectedly merging into heartfelt emotion. It may stretch the bounds of believability, but it's never phony.

Schumer stars as -- you guessed it -- "Amy," a woman whose divorced father (Colin Quinn) taught her at an early age that monogamy was not reasonable. So she has become a female gigolo, drinking voraciously and sleeping with whomever, but rarely more than once. She does have a regular beau, the earnest, musclebound health nut Steven (wrestler John Cena), but she clearly doesn't care about him. She works at a slimy magazine whose stories only go to print if they can shock or irritate. (Tilda Swinton is wonderful as the thorny editor.) She's assigned a story on a sports doctor, Aaron (Bill Hader), who has invented a revolutionary new surgery. They hit it off, but she's thrown for a loop when he wants to keep seeing her.

The movie has a huge cast, and everyone gets at least a little moment to shine. NBA star LeBron James plays himself, sort of; he's Aaron's best pal, egotistical but sensitive. (He invites Aaron to watch "Downton Abbey.") Ezra Miller is an intern at the magazine, comedian Mike Birbiglia plays Amy's brother-in-law (Schumer made an appearance in his movie Sleepwalk with Me), and the always-terrific Brie Larson is her sister. One hundred year-old Norman Lloyd plays Norman, a resident at Amy's father's rest home; Lloyd is a living bit of film history, having worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Renoir, and many other legends. (Imagine the stories he could tell.)

Anyway, Trainwreck goes all over the place, with pratfalls, insults, vomiting, humiliation, etc., and it culminates in one of those big scenes in which one lover stages a big to-do in order to win back the heart of the other. But somehow, Schumer and Apatow keep a lifeline flowing through it all, and we're always pulling for the couple to make it. Bill Hader has to be a huge part of the movie's success; he showed the beginnings of some serious acting chops in last year's great The Skeleton Twins, and he brings them out again here. He's definitely a funny guy, but he plays the straight man here, and more or less anchors every scene around him.

But in this day and age, with decent women's roles seemingly evaporating in front of our eyes, it's Schumer who deserves most of the credit. She wrote the kind of leading role that a man might have written for himself, and has played it with fearlessness and gusto. She deals with sex and relationships in a way that's not shy or embarrassed (as in many films by men). Trainwreck or not, she deserves some applause for her work.

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