Judd Apatow brought Trainwreck to the South by Southwest Film Festival as a “work in progress.” Yeah, he’s probably not going to have to change much.
Sunday night’s premiere of the comedy, written by and starring Amy Schumer in her first major movie role, had the capacity Austin crowd in stitches. Most of that crowd is probably going to want to return for seconds, considering a good number of jokes and lines of dialogue were barely audible over the audience’s howling.
The early consensus is that Trainwreck marks Apatow’s best comedy in years. As far as his directorial body, it easily tops This Is 40 and Funny People, probably knocks off Knocked Up and — now we’re approaching hallowed ground — may even rival the Apatow gold standard, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. In other words, Trainwreck is an instant classic.
It all starts with the flat-out hilarious star Schumer, who arrives on the movie scene with a bang (actually, many bangs) as a promiscuous, heavy drinking magazine reporter who cheats on her bodybuilding boyfriend (Jon Cena) and treats her very domesticated sister (Brie Larson) like crap. At various points throughout the film she earns laughs with nothing more than a simple look on her face. Remember how Melissa McCarthy exploded after Bridesmaids? Expect Schumer to do the same.
Hopefully we’ve moved far past the weird flurry of talking points surrounding “women being funny” that were spurred by the box office hit Bridesmaids. The most clever thing about Trainwreck, though, is that it takes time-honored gender roles in movies (especially romantic comedies) and flips them on their heads.
For once it’s the woman who fears monogamy. It’s the woman who dominates the bedroom. It’s the woman who drinks too much and smokes too much. It’s the woman who has to reluctantly change her way over the course of the story arc. And in a crowd-pleasing finale that had the audience buzzing, it’s the woman who has to win back the man in some type of ridiculous, grandiose, hysterical fashion. (Like Virgin, and unlike the vast majority of comedies, even when the romantic quarrel has to be resolved, things never turn too cheesy, serious or laughless for very long.)
That aforementioned guy is played by Bill Hader, who despite all his success on Saturday Night Live and on the big screen in fare like Skeleton Twins and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, finally gets his first major (live action) studio lead as well. He plays the infinitely likable surgeon to the sporting world’s stars who makes Schumer’s Amy change her ways. As one critic wrote on Twitter, Hader is “so endearing” that “everyone’s going to want to date him after seeing this.”
LeBron James and Bill Hader in Trainwreck
Beyond Schumer and Hader, the cast is stacked with funny performances, both from people you’d expect (Vanessa Bayer, Mike Birbiglia, Dave Attell, Colin Quinn) and people you wouldn’t (a reliably unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, Cena, and LeBron James). NBA star James, who plays a heightened version of himself (he’s Hader’s patient and also his best friend), steals every scene he’s in. “What are your intentions?,” he asks Amy at one point. LeBron’s defense of Cleveland and his insistence that Hader’s Aaron visit it is another one of the movie’s best scenes.
And then there’s the Achilles’ heel of Apatow films, which is runtime. Even his biggest fans will admit most of his films could use some slicing and dicing in the editing bay. I’m not sure how long Trainwreck runs, but it doesn’t feel too long, that’s for sure.
I have no idea what Apatow plans to cut from this “work in progress” for the final product (in theaters July 17), but he should save himself the energy and leave this gem like it is.
Watch the trailer for Trainwreck:
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