Trainwreck: Overhyped, Sporadically Funny, Ultimately Conventional Comedy

trainwreck_posterAmy Schumer’s raunchy comedy “Trainwreck,” directed by Hollywood’s king of R-rated comedy, Judd Apathow, is easily the most overhyped (non comic-strip) movie of the year. But is it really good, consistently funny, and ideologically poignant as we had been promised?

Our Grade: B- (** out of *****)

Judged by the results, however, it’s a mixed bag, a foul-mouthed comedy that’s not throughly funny (it has dead spots and awkward moments).  For me, the most disppointing thing is how, despite the hype and promises, Trainwreck is actually a very conventional comedy, masquerading as a feminist film (which it is not) and promising to be innovative (which it is only partially so) as far as the protraiture of female protagonists are concerned.

trainwreck_7_schumerSchumer plays a Manhattan journalist for a men’s magazine called S’Nuff, who parties a lot, sleeps around with a lot hot men and tells us about it in wry and dry but overly long voice-over narration, often repeating what we have already observed or know.

A strong but simplistic Freudian perspective is laid over the narrative: We learn that Schumer is romantically blocked and emotionally arrested, largely due to being traumatized by her philandering father (Colin Quinn).

About to divorce from their mother, dad explains to his two young daughters: “Monogamy isn’t realistic,” which he then absurdly compares to the girls’ need for the freedom to play not with one, but with different and various dolls.

It’s unclear how exactly he has thwarted his older daughter’s chance at happiness. Nor does it make much sense why the two smart girls should listen to (and be influenced and hurt) by their father, who represents damaged goods, and he more of a victim than product of bad socialization.

Joining forces with her younger happily married sister Kim (Brie Larson), Amy is trying to put their father, who’s diagnosed with ms, into a care center.

Meanwhile, Amy finds out that she could advance quicker at work if she writes a critical essay on Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a star sports-medicine doctor, whose patients include NBA stars LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire.  Amy seduces the shy doctor, who (hard to believe) hasn’t had any sex in a decade.

Rest of the tale is routine stuff of girl losing boy and then girl regaining boy, with the duo deluding themselves with all kinds of reasons against  serious, long term commitment.

Inevitable comparisons will be made to Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker),a far more interesting figure than Schumer, of the TV series and two movie of Sex and the City.

There are some progressive ideas regarding  physical appearance.  Schumer is much less pre-occupied or even concerned with her body, the way she looks, or the public image she projects to the outside world.  She is not an updated version of the titular heroine of Bridget Jones, superbly played by Renee Zellweger.

trainwreck_6_schumer_cenaBy the way, both Jessica Parker and Zellweger are more likable and charming than Schumer, who is still very much a stand-up comic.  A good acting coach should be able to help her finesse her body movements; awkwardness is only appealing up to a point.


Bill Hader is more of a seconary character than a real co-star and leading man, and neither Hder nor NBA superstar LeBron James, in his acting debut, register strongly (which might have been the point of Schumer, an ulra-aggressive performers–even by standards of comedy actors (I find the style of Melissa McCarthy far more agreeable)

Here is a summary of the reasons why Trainwreck is ultimately a mediocre picture, more impressive in intent than in result.

  1. The movie doesn’t live up to its title, which is a good one to be sure–and a product of smart advertising, but ultimately false.
  2. The structure of Trainwreck is that of conventional and familiar romantic comedy, with more foul-mouth humor, this time around uttered by a woman
  3. In many ways, Schumer’s character just imitates the kind of behavior associated with macho men and womanizers–she is a commitment-phobic.  Her character doesn’t improve or really revises established codes of courtship or rituals of dating and sexual encounters.
  4. The first reel of Trainwreck is the best in offering loud-out laughs and establishing an interesting premise for a comedy, but the energy, steam and originality decline as the tale unfolds.
  5. There is no strong chemistry, erotic and otherwise, between Schumer and the men in her life, inlcuding Bill Hader.
  6. Apathow, Hollywood’s reignig King of Comedy, has never been a technically skillful director, and quite disappointingly, he is not getting better at his form; his earlier features of a decade ago are sharper and better staged.

Commercial Propsets:

trainwreck_5_schumer_haderThe film, which screened last night at 2,363 theaters starting at 8 p.m., is forecast to earn $18 to $20 million this weekend in 3,157 locations. The preview number is better than Fox’s “Spy,” which took in $1.5 million in Thursday night on its way to a so-so $29 million opening weekend.

Aggressive Promotion

trainwreck_4_schumerUniversal and Schumer have been aggressively promoting “Trainwreck,” which might have raised expectations below any relaitisc level.

There was a high-profile screening at March’s SXSW, which generated pre-mature buzz.

“Trainwreck,” obviously an R-rated comedy, cost a modest $35 million to produce, so Universal has taken no risks, and at the end, the movie will be profitable for them.

The big news this weekend is the launch of Disney-Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” expected to gross in the $60 million to $65 million range in 3,856 locations, most of which in 3D.

Please read our review of Ant-Man.

“Ant-Man” is also opening in 50 international markets.

Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Corey Stoll star in the comic book adaptation, directed by Peyton Reed.

Pefectly cast, Rudd is terrific in playing a down-on-his-luck thief who uses technology to transform himself into the size of an insect.