“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!!

“Bridesmaids”–Maid of Dishonor, Never the Bride

This is a female version of “Hangover” but much, much better. “Bridesmaids”, the new movie produced by Judd Apatow of “40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” fame, has crisp, brilliant comic writing by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo together with superb comedic timing by Wiig, Maya Rudolph and a perfectly cast team of supporting actresses –a hilarious, knockout performance by Melissa McCarthy especially. McCarthy dominates every scene she’s in with her over-the-top sexual and verbal attacks. For women who enjoy a “girls night out” to roar with snort-laughs that make you cry, and for all men who also enjoy raunchy unexpected gross-out scenes from some of the most talented comediennes today, this movie is for you!

Wiig plays Annie, who has not had much luck –in her love life, her work, her roommates, with her mother or her friends…except for her best friend from childhood, Lillian (delectably played by the winning Maya Rudolph.) The story is a rather simple one rehashed many times before –“girl rivalry”. This time it is the “new girl in town”–Helen (played to perfection by Rose Byrne) who represents change for Annie in terms of who she is and how she identifies herself with relation to her best friend. Comedy and pathos touchingly intermingle as we cringe to see Annie, Lillian’s designated maid of honor, try to compete on unfamiliar turf with Helen: couturier dress selection, fine dining, one-upmanship in gifts, to name only a few of the most hilarious, but also fiercely moving, scenes. The sweet Irish charm of a smitten cop (an endearing role by Chris O’Dowd), only underscores how hurt and out of control Annie really is.

I thought “Bridesmaids” would be silly, maybe even stupid, but the script proved to be brilliant in the most unexpected moments. The screenwriters were astute in not playing only for laughs. The opening sex scene with Kristen Wiig and a wonderfully clueless cad (Jon Hamm) was enough to put this viewer securely on Wiig’s side of the story for the rest of the film, while simultaneously laughing so hard tears rolled down my cheeks so I consequently missed the next set of zingers. Will have to watch this movie a second time to get the full dialogue! The incredibly fast pace of slicing morsels of humor is extraordinary!

This movie is not for everyone. It has vulgar, physical comedy that doesn’t appeal to anyone who cannot channel their “inner teenage self”. However, if you want to see a comedy that heals wounds while making you laugh and watch Kristen Wiig give the performance of her lifetime, then make sure you see this movie. Her brilliant comic talent (and writing) needs to be in more challenging venues than her current long-time gig on “Saturday Night Live”. It’s time for her to move on…to more creative adventures following her debut in this comic gem!