SXSW Review: TRAINWRECK

Amy Schumer is not ready to commit to you, no matter how much you love her.

Here’s the thing about Trainwreck: it’s a romantic comedy. It’s not a subversive take on the rom-com, either. It’s a romantic comedy in the vein of the big, mainstream, wildly successful romantic comedies of the ‘90s and early 2000s. It hits the beats you think it’s going to hit, and it hits them well.

I bet a lot of people aren’t going to call it a romantic comedy, though. They’ll call it a Judd Apatow movie; they’ll call it an Amy Schumer movie. They’ll call it a sex comedy or just a comedy. That’s because Trainwreck is very good and very funny and very cool, and most people don’t want to admit that rom-coms can be good, funny and cool.

This is the magic of Amy Schumer. She makes everything seem cooler just by virtue of her association. But the fact is, there was never anything inherently wrong with romantic comedies as a genre. There have been great romantic comedies, and there have been terrible romantic comedies. Trainwreck is a great romantic comedy.

Schumer plays Amy, a writer at an obnoxious men’s magazine titled S’Nuff. At a young, impressionable age, her father, the crotchety Colin Quinn, teaches her and her sister, Kim (Brie Larson) that monogamy is a fruitless endeavor. With Kim - happily married, pregnant and mother to a weirdly precocious step-son whom Amy openly despises - that lesson did not take. With Amy, it caught on like gangbusters. She’s living a free-wheeling single’s life filled with booze, bud and many, many men. Lots of men. An incredibly impressive assortment of men. And then she meets sports surgeon Aaron (Bill Hader).

So yeah, this goes where you think it’s going to go. Despite her deepest and most abiding instincts, Amy falls for Aaron. Their relationship is perfect, until it isn't, and then Amy must learn to overcome her deep-seated inclination to flee at the first sign of adult obligation. And, of course, everything works out at the end with a grand, implausible gesture by Amy. I mean, seriously: you have seen this movie.

And yet, Trainwreck still manages to surprise in how profoundly funny it is, and in the wonderful realism and recognizability of her character. Here is a woman who’s a bit of a mess lain bare, and it’s a beautiful, hilarious, interesting mess of which you'd like to see much, much more. So, at the end, when Amy realizes she must abandon childish pursuits and get her act together to keep the man that she loves, a man who is kind and funny and intelligent, it’s kind of a bummer, frankly. We like irresponsible Amy. But if Amy doesn’t like irresponsible Amy, well, that’s really her business.

These performances are perfect. Screenwriter Schumer - who admitted in the Q&A that all this mess is her, just her - is as hilarious and rad as you know she's going to be, but what might surprise you is how poignant and deeply sad she can be. There were a few moments in Trainwreck in which Schumer brought me to tears. She's honest and true, and never more so than in her relationship with her sister, played warmly here by Larson. Schumer's sister Kim Caramele produced Trainwreck with Schumer and the two are writing partners, and the relationship onscreen is so plain and genuine that I now feel like I know something of Caramele, and of the love and mutual support she and Schumer share despite their very different personalities. Hader is a much dreamier romantic lead than one might expect of the comedian, and the most surprising standout of Trainwreck is without a doubt LeBron James, playing a very sweet, strange version of himself as Aaron's patient and friend. Oh yeah: and Tilda Swinton is in this movie! She's the posh, mildly evil editor of S'nuff whom Amy must go to great lengths to impress.

The version we saw was a Work in Progress print, and though technically Trainwreck looked great, it's a bit long and meandering, and not all of the jokes land. This being a Judd Apatow joint, there's no guarantee any of that will be improved by the final version, but even if it isn't, Trainwreck will win over audiences male and female. Of course, at least half of that audience won't admit that it's a romantic comedy they're loving, but they'll love it just the same.

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