This article was originally published to The Edge on 31st July 2015
Romantic comedies have recently been approached with unbearable cynicism; there are no big, studio and star driven ones. If one appears on the radar, it is a small independent feature that’s usually not about the romance, and/or doesn’t have the star power to hit it big. So it’s refreshing to see Trainwreck, which has plenty of B to A-listers, be a rom-com through and through, for a modern audience, without feeling antiquated, and without ever being boring.
Amy (Amy Schumer) is a thirty-something writer for a men’s magazine enjoying her free-wheeling no-strings lifestyle. She looks after her ailing father (Colin Quinn) and spars with her married sister Kim (Brie Larson). However when Amy meets sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader) who really likes her, her anti-monogamous views are put to the test.
Rom-coms can be sensitive and enjoyable character studies about risks humans take in real life. They do not have to be original or new to be great. Trainwreck certainly isn’t original – at least it’s different to have the lead be a woman who – as Tilda Swinton’s brilliant and vicious editor calls her – is “pretty-ish, but not gorgeous”. Schumer owns this throughout, constantly angling for controversial jokes that you definitely would never hear in She’s All That or 10 Things I Hate About You. Amy is different to those films’ leads because she doesn’t mind men. She isn’t sworn off them or uninterested, she just doesn’t want to commit. Combine this with her hard-drinking and smoking, and you have the recipe for the Seth Rogen manchild character of one of Apatow’s other greatest hits, Knocked Up.
Bill Hader plays it straight and makes a perfect counterpart to Amy. Charming, intelligent, with excellent chemistry with Schumer, and surrounded by far wackier men and women. LeBron James plays himself as slightly effeminate, while John Cena is hilarious as an early suitor of Amy’s: totally hapless, sweet, and unaware of how everything he does is loaded with homosexuality. Aaron in comparison seems too perfect. He doesn’t change much at all, or feel like he has to be the one to change. This does not entirely harm the film – it is Amy’s show after all. She’s dealing with more than a relationship, but her job, her dad, her sister, and the challenges of growing up. Yet as the relationship takes up more time, it would have benefitted the film’s gender politics greatly to see a more level playing field in who’s flawed or not.
By its clichéd, all-dancing finale, Trainwreck could be nothing but a rom-com. It changes the game in small ways: the comedy is relentless, and often filthy but never physically gross. The relationship and power dynamics feel slightly shifted from the norm, to be more in line with modern dating struggles. The men are more often than not the butts of the joke, and ideas about masculinity are skewed cleverly. It’s a little bit too long, true, but it’s also very smart, utterly hilarious, and is sure to make stars of both Schumer and Hader.
Trainwreck (2015), directed by Judd Apatow, is distributed in the UK by Universal Pictures International, Certificate 15.