Mini-Review: ‘Trainwreck’

All you need to be happy is to settle down and find a good mate: The Apatow Doctrine

It's that wonderful time of the year when studios send screeners to critics in an effort to boost a movie's chances of winding up in the discussion for end-of-year awards/best-of lists. Trainwreck, now available on home video and OnDemand, is one such movie.  I'll be writing a few of these mini-reviews as the year winds down and I catch up on flicks I missed.

Because I'm a terrible film critic who doesn't pay enough attention to what's going on in the entertainment industry, I did not realize until the week it was being released that Judd Apatow had directed Trainwreck. To be fair to myself, his involvement was downplayed somewhat in the marketing, which highlighted the involvement of "the producer of Bridesmaids" rather than "the director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up and Funny People and This Is 40."*

And that make sense! After all, Trainwreck is a movie about a woman (Amy, played by Amy Schumer) with commitment issues who has trouble finding happiness until she realizes that what she most needs in this life is the love of a good man to help settle her down a bit. Going after the demo that identifies with that predicament—a demo that helped drive Bridesmaids to $169 million at the domestic box office—is just good business.

But Trainwreck is a decidedly Apatovian affair, with Schumer filling in the role of the emotionally stunted man-children in need of a good job and a good lover so favored by the director. Amy is a more-professionally-competent Ben (Seth Rogen) from Knocked Up, a sluttier version of Andy (Steve Carell) from The 40-Year-Old Virgin who nevertheless has similar intimacy issues.

Needless to say, as a big fan of Apatow's work, I loved it. It's one of the funniest movies I've seen this year, suffused with the sort of raunchy sentimentality that made his previous films such amusing romps.

Schumer shines, of course, but it's the supporting cast that really makes the film work. Tilda Swinton's turn as the British head of the Maxim-like lad mag that employs Amy is deeply amusing and Colin Quinn's turn as a foulmouthed dad with MS is alternately a little sad and a little hilarious. Vanessa Bayer and Bill Hader, two Saturday Night Live vets, utilize their almost impossibly elastic faces to inspire giggles. A special mention has to be given to WWE star John Cena, who plays against his kid-friendly, uber-masculine image by spending much of the film semi-nude and/or yelling out phrases that make him sound as though he's trying to nail a dude.

*Or, alternately, "from the writer of Heavy Weights!"