It’s amazing how Trainwreck (2015) and When Harry Met Sally manage to do the same thing through very different approaches.
Trainwreck is a romantic comedy written by and starring Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow. We are entering a new age of Schumer, who will undoubtedly write more films in the future. The film follows the life of Amy, who grew up believing her father’s words that “monogamy isn’t realistic” and flails through dating with that mentality.
For me, personally, I judge a rom-com off two main principles: 1) How well I can step into the female character’s shoes and relate to her, and 2) How much I like the male lead and imagine myself with him. In regards to the second point, Trainwreck is a home-run for me. Bill Hader co-stars as Dr. Aaron Connors, sports doctor about whom Amy writes an article. He is a fantastic romantic leading man. He’s got it all: looks, charisma, humor, and a realness about him that really draws you in. He’s sweet and caring, always there for Amy. He’s skyrocketed to one of my favorite romantic comedy leading man, because he’s such a sweet guy who genuinely cares for his partner — who also likes spooning.
There’s a little friction with the first point. In case you missed it, Amy is the titular train wreck. She’s got some issues, explained right off the bat from her father explaining his divorce to his daughters. Somehow her sister Kim (Brie Larson) escaped childhood without any long-term social damage, but Amy is a different story. I can absolutely relate to how an experience growing up can have repercussions in adulthood and with dating/relationships. I also admire her confidence and humor. I’m, thankfully, just not a train wreck like her, so it’s hard to put myself in her shoes in the rom-com, especially when Aaron is being so good to her. But the whole point is that Amy is flailing through life, while having fun and starting a career, and now that she’s met someone worthwhile to her, she can finally address all those issues she’s let be to finally feel grounded. I know it’s a strange thing to say from a raunchy romantic-comedy, but I absolutely feel inspired to address my own issues — but then I might miss my chance to dance with the Knicks cheerleaders for a man.
Schumer writes a hilarious, semi-autobiographical film, filled with laughs and gasps. In many ways, I see this as a ramped up version of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, as the heroine of the story pushes away the guy she loves, and manages to win him back partly through leaving a trashy magazine and applying her talents to a more prestigious publication. Schumer’s writing and performance are stellar. Her humor is not for everyone, but her story is multi-dimensional. The speech she wrote for her father’s funeral is gritty and unexpected, a transformation of what it means to be brutally honest. Then in the ending of the film, which, for a rom-com, is the sentimental and tear-inducing part of the film, she alternates layers of huge laughs and tears one right after the other, to delay that inevitable ending. Haider and Larson both give flawless performances, along with the true shapeshifter of our time, Tilda Swinton, playing Amy’s boss Dianna. (We need to talk about this second collaboration between Swinton and Ezra Miller since We Need to Talk About Kevin). The two movie theaters in Chicago that I’ve gone to this weekend have both had sold-out screenings of Trainwreck, so it appears to be doing very well. It’s a raunchy and hilarious take on the romantic comedy, and a first step in the limelight of many by comedy goddess Amy Schumer.