Tuesday, August 4, 2015

She's a TRAINWRECK

Amy Schumer is not just a comedian.  She's an actress.  And a good one.  I saw TRAINWRECK and I see now why she's been one of the "It" girls of summer.  She plays one hot mess of a New York female in the movie and she's fun to watch.  Her character takes behavior we've seen men display on screen and, frankly, in real life and she plays it from the woman's side.  She wrote the screenplay and showcases herself very effectively.
Trainwreck was directed by Judd Apatow.  With a Judd Apatow comedy, you can always count on three things:  1.  It'll have a racially diverse cast.  2.  There will be sexual situations and inappropriate sex-related dialogue that's so goofy you'll laugh and 3.  Apatow will have a good 1 hour and 45 minute comedy unnecessarily stretched out to a little over 2 hours.  Why was Knocked Up longer than Waiting for Guffman, Annie Hall, Some Like It HotA Night at the Opera and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek?  I don't know.  But it was.  Same thing with Trainwreck.  It's about 2 hours and 5 minutes.
The story starts with little Amy and her sister sitting on the car outside as their dad prepares them for some serious news.  He and their mom are getting a divorce.  The girls don't seemed phased at all.  Dad, a loopy drinker, continues to explain in his own bone-headed way.  He has them repeat after him:  "Monogamy isn't realistic."  23 years later we see grown Amy.  She's got a good job and an active night life because she likes liquor and casual sex.  As she says, "I'm just a sexual girl, ok?"  She does the Walk of Shame one morning after a one-night stand.  She's in high heels and a short shiny skirt.  The guy wanted her to stay so he could make her breakfast.  That's the difference.  More than one man has liked her and wanted to get closer but she pushed them all away.  She's sorta kinda seeing a muscleman.  And then comes a doctor, a sports doctor she's assigned to profile for her magazine.  This non-swinger will be the man who wakes her up to the fact that her life is a trainwreck and needs to change.

If you liked Bridesmaids and Melissa McCarthy in Spy, you'll be tickled by Amy Schumer in Trainwreck.  Also, I read on Twitter that folks loved the comedy and didn't expect to get a tear or two in their eyes.  That surprised me too.  After a romantic montage with the doctor to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" -- a gentle poke at Woody Allen's 1979 Manhattan with a visual reference to this famous shot in Allen's film...
...some serious family issues arise that Amy can't drink and wisecrack her way out of like she usually does.  Here, we see Schumer's dramatic acting chops.  Besides her, there are three good supporting reasons to see Trainwreck.  First, are you a fan of classic films by Alfred Hitchcock?  Remember the famous scene in Hitchcock's 1942 movie, Saboteur?  The American Nazi traitor dangles from the torch of the Statue of Liberty.
Norman Lloyd played the saboteur and he's worked steadily in film and TV ever since.  The veteran actor is in Trainwreck as the divorced older dad's friend in an assisted living facility.  Lloyd is sharp.  He's funny.  He's 100 in real life.
For classic film fans, seeing Norman Lloyd get laughs in Trainwreck is terrific.  He plays the chatty buddy to Colin Quinn as Amy's dad.  If she's a hot mess, the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree.
The second reason to see this comedy is the surprise performance from former pro wrestler turned actor, John Cena.  Who knew that he could do comedy?  He plays the meat-headed muscleman that Amy's dating.  He's a total idiot when it comes to talking dirty during sex, which she wants him to do.  But he looks good naked.
In a scene that made me laugh a lot, he takes her to a dramatic black and white movie at an arthouse theater.  This white dude talks so much during the movie that a black guy tells him to shut up.  Then we hear how sexually clueless the muscleman is when it comes to trash-talking to intimidate another man.
But he gets too serious for Amy.  The third good supporting reason to see Trainwreck is LeBron James.  Again..who knew this star athlete could do comedy?  He plays the best friend to the sports doctor.  He's the friend who loves watching Downton Abbey.  When the doctor is nervous about asking Amy out, LeBron tells him "You have to take risks."
LeBron wants to know that Amy doesn't hurt his friend's feelings and break his heart.
LeBron is so relaxed and naturally funny as an actor.  The NBA star scores in every scene he does.  Which brings me back to Woody Allen.  I've watched his films for decades.  When I started reviewing movies on TV in the 1980s, after his Oscar-winning 1977 classic Annie Hall, each new Woody Allen movie was always eagerly-awaited.  In the 1990s, critics started asking where the black people were in his New York movies.  Critics brought that up on a TV show I once hosted.  Allen starts shooting a new movie this month and the cast was announced this week.  Not a black or Latino actor in a lead or supporting role.  Same old story.  As much as Allen reportedly loves jazz and basketball, he couldn't give a role to someone like LeBron James after all these years?

Bill Hader stars as Aaron, the doctor. He's a fine leading man in this twisted romantic comedy.  By the way, if you want to see Hader's dramatic depth, rent last year's The Skeleton Twins  He's so good in that and in this.
He can always give you right mix of comedy and compassion in a character.  His Aaron doesn't just look at Amy, he sees into her -- and not just medically. He has fun with her and also slowly breaks through the wall she's built up around herself.
Trainwreck is not a classic comedy.  As I wrote earlier, Apatow comedies tend to run longer than they need to be.  He could've dropped a good 15 minutes out of this one but the cast holds your interest.  What Amy ultimately does with her screenplay is show you that childhood is the blueprint for the rest of your life.  You can't deny that her trainwreck life began with a lesson taught by a drinking dad:  "Monogamy is unrealistic."  And a good doctor helps her heal.

Randall Park of ABC's Fresh Off the Boat and chameleon Oscar winner Tilda Swinton co-star.


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