Director: Judd Apatow
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Carried entirely by the indisputable charm of its stars, TRAINWRECK isn’t so much a comedy that fails to be memorable as much as it is a freight train of missed opportunities. Through a simple bend on the romantic comedy structure, Apatow allows for a comically charged narrative that unfortunately feels like it misses the mark when trying to make a greater feminist statement. Pandering heavily towards its female fans, TRAINWRECK feels like it meanders around its subject rather than tackle it head-on, most disappointingly caving to genre expectations as if it had just spent two hours in reflection before convincing itself it had gone about the proceedings the entirely wrong way.
At its foundation, TRAINWRECK is a film about a woman who enjoys to get drunk and sleep with men. There’s something glorious about Schumer being able to make a film about this because she’s so generally articulate and fantastically illuminating on the subject of gender bias.
Consequently, TRAINWRECK should play out like an anti-romance, but is instead executed as a role reversal. The subtle distinction here is that ultimately TRAINWRECK follows all of the typical genre guidelines, only that its female and male protagonist have switched places. This isn’t what the film should be doing though, because TRAINWRECK should bask in the glory that some women might not want to start a family or stop partying. Thus the anti-romance approach would have been more in-line with Schumer’s standup and a significantly more original cinematic effort.
Much like its cameo-studded cast, TRAINWRECK plays out like a product of its generation, trading in an opportunity to stand the test of time for a quick laugh. It’s fantastic that Schumer is given an opportunity to shine in feature-length, and at its high points, TRAINWRECK almost channels the quality of Louis C.K’s series LOUIE, but where it continuously stumbles is in its own self-doubt. Lacking the conviction to take pride in the character traits that make Schumer a societal mess, Apatow directs the screen like he’s trying his best to laugh with Schumer, instead of using her as a surrogate to stick it to the man.
Schumer’s alcoholism is actually the glaring pitfall here: whilst her loose sexual personality is at least encouraged to a certain extent, her relationship with alcohol feels tacked-on and is treated like an easy fix. What’s disappointing is that neither of these character traits should be ostracized if Apatow wanted to make a statement about the unfair double standards between men and women, but by implying that Schumer can’t find happiness without giving them up, Apatow is inadvertently doing just that. This apathetic mentality towards TRAINWRECK’s initially feminist outlook causes the film to play out like a college kid read a page out of their feminist theory textbook and then tried to make a film to prove that they know what they’re talking about.
Cheers to Feminism 101
This isn’t to say that TRAINWRECK isn’t funny: on the contrary, Amy Schumer and Bill Hader are delightful screen presences and play their roles fantastically, but the overall product is devoid of any significant catharsis. In fact, the complete absence of a cathartic moment would have been preferable to what Apatow ends up doing with TRAINWRECK; the film tries so hard to not conform to the romantic comedy genre, only to force its protagonist through a measly character arc that tackles her drinking and commitment issues on a surface level. Ultimately, Schumer’s transformation feels fantastical and completely misguided when considering that her entire comedic credo rests on the sole belief that women are entitled to exactly the same belligerence as men. It’s almost as if Schumer had directed the first two acts of her movie and then left the third act to a studio of old men who have no idea what she’s about.
Visually, there’s not much to say about TRAINWRECK; following the well-worn Apatow tradition, it relies entirely on line deliveries for comedic affect and doesn’t bring anything new to the table on an aesthetic level. It’s not necessarily lazy filmmaking, but when a script carries the potential to make an important statement about such a timely social issue, one would expect more effort on the visual front.
Definitely not Apatow’s worst, and arguably a return-to-form comically for the director, TRAINWRECK proves that through good casting, a director can ensure an entertaining summer comedy, but unfortunately for Schumer, the greater intent of her self-effacing humor gets lost in a narrative that centers around conformity. And while one could definitely pick a worse film to watch during their 2015 summer vacation, TRAINWRECK is also a film that won’t live far past its release date. Catering to the lowest common denominator of feminist pictures, TRAINWRECK falls disappointingly short of its potential, but thankfully its comedic punch somewhat salvages a thematically disjointed narrative.
This review originally appeared here.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend