Trainwreck is a funny movie with some truly great comedic moments; Trainwreck draws out scenes too long. Amy Schumer is GREAT in Trainwreck; Judd Apatow really needs to let go and edit his movies with a sharper hand. Trainwreck is an enjoyable movie; Trainwreck is a mixed bag. I wanted to love Trainwreck unconditionally and give it an A+ glowing review, like Spy, but in truth, while it is good enough and enjoyable enough, Trainwreck does have some problems. It’s a star-making turn for Amy Schumer, just as Bridesmaids propelled Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, but it also highlights the ongoing problems of Judd Apatow’s movies, chiefly that they are too long. A solid twenty minutes—at least—could have been cut from Trainwreck, and it would have benefitted from that hypothetical tighter editing.
Functioning like a gender-swapped rom-com, Trainwreck hits all the familiar beats of that genre, except in reverse. Schumer stars as Amy, the sexually liberated and heart-breaking protagonist that would usually be a guy. Bill Hader is Aaron, the sensitive-ish, romantic-ish lovelorn character that is typically a woman. LeBron James stars as himself as Aaron’s best friend, endlessly supportive and worried about this barracuda-like person who threatens to break his friend’s heart—he’s the Judy Greer character. It’s a solid concept and with Schumer’s smart writing behind it, could have been a sharp, tight genre parody like Wet Hot American Summer. Or go the other way and trim out some of the genre conventions and Trainwreck would work as a comedy/drama about a woman coming to terms with her own inner demons.
The problem is, Trainwreck tries to do both, and in the process becomes bloated. It’s difficult to tell where the issues of Schumer as a first-time feature writer end and Apatow’s tendency to edit indulgently take over, but since the biggest problems in Trainwreck are the overall pacing and rhythm of individual scenes, it seems that the lion’s share should go to Apatow. He hasn’t quite earned a stint in director jail, but someone should really enforce a ninety-minute limit on his next two movies. But there are some script issues that have to be laid at Schumer’s door, too. Schumer has grown into a strong sketch writer, but in Trainwreck she struggles with the balance between crafting in-scene jokes and carrying through plotlines. There are a number of scenes that just don’t have any kind of joke built into it, and so Apatow ends up looking for the punchline in editing, but it’s not there, so the scene just goes on and on, and now the movie is too long.
For instance, an early scene features Amy at her job with a lad mag—the amusingly named S’Nuff—attending a pitch meeting with her boss and wacky co-workers. Tilda Swinton steps in as boss lady Dianna, a kind of Anna Wintour caricature, and she knocks it out of the park because she’s Tilda Motherf*cking SWINTON, not because the writing is really there for her. Everyone throws out potential story ideas, some funny, some not, but there’s no actual joke built into the scene. Compare it to the poker scene in 40 Year Old Virgin, in which increasingly wild sex stories climax (heh) with Andy revealing he’s a virgin. That’s a clear set up—the one-upping sex stories—with a pay-off reveal. But in Trainwreck it’s just a scatological call out scene that should have lasted thirty seconds before shifting to advancing the plot, since the headline gag wasn’t doing anything. The rhythm of the scene suggests there’s a buildup occurring that will pay off, but neither of those things happen. There’s just a gag that goes on too long.
But it’s not a total loss! Schumer can hold the screen for more than three minutes at a time which bodes well for her future in feature film. And though Trainwreck stumbles in places, it also excels in others, especially in the subplot about Amy and her younger, more stable sister Kim (Brie Larson). There’s real heart to those moments, and Schumer as an actress shines in scenes where she gets to play on her vulnerability and unapologetic sexuality. And there is good comedy on display in the movie—LeBron James gets some great material he does surprisingly well with, and a date night scene between Amy and Aaron is very funny. It’s just hindered by a screenwriter still working out the kinks and a director who can’t rein it in. Trainwreck may not be a grand slam, but it is a promising start to Amy Schumer’s feature film career.