“Trainwreck,” directed by Judd Apatow, might have vibrantly demonstrated that a woman can engage in casual, noncommittal sex and be truly happy. But instead, it turns into a familiar romantic comedy in which monogamy and traditional family dynamics are the sole ticket to fulfillment.
What lifts the movie into winning terrain is Amy Schumer, its star and screenwriter. She supplies a sparkling combination of physicality, brains and emotion.
Apatow, whose directorial credits include “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” and Schumer, seen on “Inside Amy Schumer” on Comedy Central, apply a twist or two to the romcom formula in which a commitment-phobic bachelor meets the perfect girl and settles down.
In this case, the serial dater is named Amy. As conceived and played by Schumer, she’s a boozy, sharp-tongued handful.
A 30ish good-time girl with a bouncy ponytail and a writer’s job at a shallow men’s magazine, Amy lives by her father’s credo that “monogamy isn’t realistic.” Her personal life, unbeknown to her brawny semi-boyfriend, Steven (John Cena), consists of frequent drunken one-night stands. Amy can’t fathom a life like that of her happily married-with-stepson sister, Kim (Brie Larson).
But then Amy falls for Aaron (Bill Hader), the sports-injury surgeon she’s assigned to interview. After a night of sex that she instigated, Amy is floored when Aaron phones her and asks her out on a date.
Soon, the two are a couple whose bliss Apatow conveys with a stream of lovey-dovey images. “I hope this montage ends like Jonestown,” says Amy, horrified of what she’s becoming.
As Amy’s wild ways clash with Aaron’s respectable world, and Amy is forced to acknowledge she wants something deeper in her life, the film increasingly puts forth the tired message that women like Amy are misguided, often damaged souls who need a faithful relationship, and, ideally, children, with Mr. Right.
But overall, in these shallow months of summer, the movie qualifies as an colorfully entertaining comedy.
Schumer can walk funny, talk funny, and portray a wide range of conditions, from sloshed to rueful. She works well with Apatow’s trademark recipe of raunch and heart. The scenes in which Amy deals with her ailing father (Colin Quinn), a racist, homophobic, ill-tempered philanderer, are unexpectedly moving.
Schumer’s unwillingness to significantly soften Amy as her path becomes increasingly conventional provides needed counterbalance to Apatow’s sentimentality. Schumer and Hader generate sparks together.
Apatow, meanwhile, hits more than misses with the numerous cameo-filled tributaries that push the movie’s running time slightly past the two-hour mark. Best are the scenes featuring basketball superstar LeBron James (playing himself) acting as Aaron’s romantic adviser and those containing Amy’s magazine cohorts. The latter include Tilda Swinton as Amy’s cosmetically minded, dictatorial boss.
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn
Written by: Amy Schumer
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes