On paper, teaming writer/star Amy Schumer with director/producer Judd Apatow seems like a perfect match. Schumer has become something of an Internet darling for her sketch comedy show Inside Amy Schumer, which combines edgy humor with strong feminist undertones, while Apatow has directed great adult comedies that spotlight talented comedic actors like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People (and he’s produced films like Anchorman, Step Brothers and Bridesmaids). Unfortunately, Trainwreck ends up accentuating their flaws more than their strengths and, as a result, feels flat and underwhelming.
Apatow has never been good at reigning in his comedies. He’s not one to ascribe to the old adage of “Kill your darlings.” Instead, he’s more than willing to release meandering, two-hour comedies that are funny, but often start to feel tedious by the end.
Schumer is used to writing sketch comedy. Trainwreck is her first feature-length film script. So while she has a knack for writing strong characters and finding the comedy in individual scenes, she seems to struggle with basic story structure. There is no real arc to Trainwreck. Characters don’t really change or grow. Things just sort of happen to them and they react. A lot of plot points are introduced throughout the film, but many are abandoned and others that are revisited have been dropped for so long that you no longer care about them.
The disappointing thing is that, with a skilled screenwriter and editor taking one more pass at this film, it could have been great. There are enough promising characters and elements to make a good film. But somehow Apatow and Schumer didn’t see the problems with the story or were incapable of fixing them on their own. (And both are in positions where there’s no one who can force them to fix things.)
The story centers around Amy (Amy Schumer), a writer for a men’s magazine who doesn’t believe in monogamy. She’s assigned an article about Aaron (Bill Hader), an accomplished sports surgeon who is highly sought by injured athletes. Amy has no interest in sports or in a long-term relationship, but she finds herself charmed by Aaron and, against her instincts, decides to date him exclusively.
It’s not the most revolutionary idea for a film, but it’s a proven formula for success. And helping the story along is the fact that people they both turn to for advice on the relationship are both utterly delightful. For Amy, it’s her sister Kim (Brie Larson). Kim has a husband and a stepson and is happy to be settled. Her role is fairly cookie cutter, but Larson plays it with so much charisma that her scenes with Schumer are all delightful. Aaron’s go-to confidant is LeBron James, playing himself, and their scenes together are all amazing. LeBron is depicted as a sweet, empathetic guy very invested in Aaron’s happiness who also is ridiculously frugal, despite the fact that he’s a multimillionaire.
While I enjoyed Brie Larson so much, Schumer’s scenes with her are a microcosm of the film’s larger problems. Amy has an issue with Kim’s bland choice in husband. The two also don’t see eye to eye on the best way to treat their ailing father Gordon (Colin Quinn), who Kim still resents for cheating on their mom. Their scenes together have some combination of them bickering about their dad, Amy taking potshots at Kim’s family and Amy asking for advice about Aaron. While real-life relationships are complicated and have many layers to them, in a movie introducing so many different conflicts feels jumbled. And that would be okay if the film was able to weave them all together into satisfying ending, but instead it just cycles between the three of them arbitrarily without having the characters grow. It takes big events from the outside to break them out of their stasis and the move things along.
The timeline in the film is also very confusing and jarring. There are unclear time jumps that make it impossible to know how long Amy and Aaron have been dating. Two-thirds of the way through the film, when it seemed like the two had been together months, suddenly Schumer remembers the article her character was supposed to write about Aaron and arbitrarily reintroduces it. (Why the article wasn’t run months earlier or why Schumer hasn’t disclosed the conflict of interest of her now dating the subject are never addressed.) Similarly, the climax of the film revolves around NBA athlete Amar’e Stoudemire returning from a surgery Aaron performed, but the surgery happens just a few scenes earlier, which logically means we’ve jumped months, or possibly more than a year, into the future, though the film treats it like not much time has passed.
The film has many enjoyable moments and memorable characters. I enjoyed large parts of it. But unfortunately, the problems with the script keep it from ever really coming together into a cohesive, satisfying film.