Saturday, September 19, 2015


Last weekend, I saw Trainwreck at the Balboa Theater.  I had intended to spend some time reading and updating this blog at La Promenade Café which is across the street from the Balboa.  Seating was limited and when I finally got a seat some weird jackass with a directional microphone wouldn't stop asking me questions.  I finally got up and left.  I walked across the street and Trainwreck was starting in 15 minutes so I decided to take a chance.

Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer & Bill Hader; with Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, Lebron James & John Cena; directed by Judd Apatow; (2015) - Official Website

Judd Apatow has his name attached to so many projects, it's hard for me to keep track.  Looking at his filmography, the only film which he directed that I've seen is The 40 Year Old Virgin. I'd never seen Amy Schumer before although I did read a memorable profile of her in GQ a couple of months ago.  Trainwreck has garnered mixed reviews.  My expectations were moderate going into the film.

Trainwreck is about Amy, a writer who works at a wonderfully trashy tabloid magazine.  Her personal life is a wreck mainly due to the influence of her father (Colin Quinn) who cheated on Amy's mother with regularity but without remorse.  At the beginning of the film, Amy has a boyfriend played by John Cena.  A sensitive athletic trainer with not-so-latent homosexual tendencies, he is a complete mismatch for Amy.

When Amy gets an assignment to profile an orthopedic surgeon (Bill Hader) who has developed a revolutionary technique, she is drawn to him despite their differences and her better judgment.  He's successful and nice...not a borderline alcoholic...and can count his sexual partners without the help of a database.  It's clear that Amy Schumer (also the screenwriter) has created the character of Amy as
flawed if not amusing lead character.  That fact that that type of character is female has drawn some commentary but I didn't find her gender to be that much of an issue.  Would I want to date the character of Amy?  Not in a million years but like in the film, she would be a source of endless amusement if you are not emotionally invested in her.

More interesting to me is the implication that the Amy in Trainwreck is a thinly veiled version of real-life Amy Schumer.  In the film, Amy's sister is named Kim (Brie Larson).  In real-life, Amy's sister is named Kim.  In the film, Amy's boyfriend is played by John Cena (a WWE wrestler) and they break up.  In real life, Amy Schumer ex-boyfriend is professional wrestler Dolph Ziggler.  There are several parallels between Amy's father & Amy Schumer's father.  The outrageousness of some of the scenes makes one wonder how much of a confessional Trainwreck really is.  Where does fact end and fiction begin?  It takes some courage on Schumer's part to put her life out there for comment although I doubt Schumer is a shrinking violet in her personal life.

Trainwreck follows several of the tropes of a romantic comedy with the typical Apatow flourishes which are slightly askew because they are performed by women (Schumer, sometimes Vanessa Bayer as Amy's coworker and Tilda Swinton who stands out as the overbearing editor at the magazine where Amy works).  Relegated to be Amy's sounding board is Brie Larson as Amy's married & reasonable little sister who lives in the suburbs.

A film like Trainwreck follows a formula - Girl Meet Boy, Girl Falls in Love with Boy, Girl Acts Like a Jerk, Girl & Boy Break Up and finally Girl & Boy Get Back Together.  The humor & originality in Trainwreck come from inverting the gender roles with respect to the traditional romcom.  Schumer gets to act like the lecher & Hader largely plays "the girl."  Set in New York City, Apatow & Schumer add numerous sports celebrities to punch up the film.  Hader's best friend is Lebron James playing Lebron James who is surprisingly invested in the specifics of romantic aspects of the relationship.  When they break up, James arranges an intervention for Hader's character with Chris Evert, Matthew Broderick & Marv Albert.

The laughs come moderately fast & mildly furious in Trainwreck.  Some gags fall short but Apatow, Schumer, et al. keep swinging away.  Daniel Radcliffe & Marisa Tomei turn up in a film-within-a-film called The Dogwalker - a romcom spoof which of course, Trainwreck also is.

Trainwreck was an entertaining evening.  If I had planned out the evening, I would have undoubtedly chosen a different film & likely would have not have regretted missing Trainwreck but as it turned the film was a modest serendipity.

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