“Trainwreck”—A Comic Collision

 

images“Trainwreck” is the best and funniest rom-com since “Bridesmaids”, another hilarious feminist film by Judd Apatow, known also for bro-coms like “40-Year Old Virgin”.  And like previous Apatow productions “Bridesmaids” (see my June 20, 2011 review) and “Girls” , “Trainwreck” is both funny and a little sad. The scenes that are the most memorable and vivid, however, are comic fireworks. Written and starring Amy Schumer, “Trainwreck’s” humor is raunchy, pushes the boundaries of conventional one-liners, and is as sexually explicit as Schumer’s Comedy Central TV series.

Amy Townsend (Schumer) is the daughter of a cantankerous, alcoholic dad (Colin Quinn) with infidelity and commitment issues. Amy follows in his footsteps. Disagreements with her younger sister about Dad’s assisted living expenses become a key indicator of Amy’s attitude toward the deeply unsympathetic man and the way he helped shape the mess she became. But it’s all too clear that Amy’s commitment-phobia, compulsive drinking, and pot-smoking are masking deeper wounds. As a staff writer for a low-brow men’s magazine, Amy gets assigned to interview Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), a sports doctor to the elite like LeBron James (who surprises with impeccable comic timing). The reason for the assignment: she hates sports.

Schumer and Hader have unbelievable chemistry together. Hader’s goofy Mr. Nice Guy channels Tom Hanks in his early career. And he plays perfectly to Schumer’s fear of intimacy and seeming invulnerability. That’s the basic theme here: about rejecting those we really desire before they have a chance to reject us. The why-try-if-we-know-how-it-will-end-up syndrome.

And what a comic team Schumer and Hader make! Funny or serious, they approach every scene without skipping a beat in timing. Open, fearless, undefended, masterful. And the supporting cast (Tilda Swinton, Colin Quinn, Vanessa Bayer, Brie Larson) give hilarious and moving performances. What every great comedy requires!

In one scene poor Aaron is imposed upon by Amy, who is afraid she has a deep need and desire for him, so she picks a fight: “You go down on me too much!” she yells, desperate to criticize him, before the joke turns around again: “And don’t try to spin this into a reason for not going down on me.”

Some jokes may not be for all tastes, but Schumer is a juggernaut for women in comedy as much as her predecessors: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, and Lena Dunham, most of whom have been supported by Apatow. And, beat for beat, “Trainwreck” is one of Apatow’s most consistently funny and charming films ever. I want to see more Amy Schumer!!

“Skeleton Twins” — A Second Chance

 

[Guest blogger Anthony Berteaux is a sophomore at San Diego State University majoring in drama and journalism. He writes a column for The Daily Aztec, (an independent campus newspaper) and his most recent article is “Die-in Protests Fuel the Fire”.]

Skeleton Twins

 

The best kinds of love stories are the ones that aren’t romantic and some can hit a nerve. In a culture of Nicholas Sparks, it is easy to forget that love stories aren’t just limited to romantic relationships, but encompass any authentic and special bond with someone else, whether it is a pet, a cousin or a friend.   The most powerful love stories can be the ones we share with family.

This is where the “Skeleton Twins”, directed by Craig Johnson and powerfully acted by former SNL regulars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, succeeds in recognizing familial relationships may be the most complex and emotionally resonant stories we can tell.

Wiig and Hader play Maggie and Milo, estranged twins, who begin living together after Milo attempts suicide.  Maggie is his only personal contact. Milo is a struggling gay actor and Maggie feels trapped in a happy marriage. They’re both cynical, somber and suicidal and it becomes clearer as the movie progresses that these twins are equally lost but need each other. They’ve spent ten years apart, but their struggles are analogous.

There’s a plot involving Maggie’s husband, a previous family suicide, Milo’s romantic past, and the siblings’ broken relationships with their parents. While Hader and Wiig look nothing like twins, there’s a chemistry there that isn’t just limited to comedy. They’re a tag team, competing and feeding off each other’s energies without being overwhelmed by the other.

This is a comedic movie, however, that doesn’t negate the very dark tone that comes with a theme like suicide. If you’re looking for a light comedy, this isn’t it.  This film reveals a dark sense of humor, not the type that we usually associate with Hader and Wiig. Again, it’s fascinating to witness the evolution of Hader, who pulls off dramatic even better than he does comedic roles. Perhaps, what the world lost in the genius Robin Williams, we can regain in some form in the gifts of Wiig and Hader.

“Skeleton Twins” is a truly honest potrayal of a powerful love shared between siblings. They are tethered by something larger than themselves. They may fight and bicker, but in the end, love prevails. The film demonstrates blood is thicker than water, for better and for worse.