At first blush, you might think that Trainwreck is not your average romantic comedy. At its center is a female protagonist whose habits include getting drunk, getting high, fucking, and breaking hearts. She’s surrounded by feminized males who enjoy tea-party settings, Downton Abbey, and cuddling. That it’s all been thought up by and stars Amy Schumer may be all you need to believe that Trainwreck has the potential to be something truly special. Well, it isn’t.
Superficial details aside, Trainwreck is exactly your average romantic comedy, and one that’s overlong by at least 30 minutes thanks to the flattening hand of the increasingly banal Judd Apatow.
Sure, Schumer talks a good game. She is rarely less than effervescent and a joy to watch. She’s fucking funny as a matter of course. There’s a collection of scenes in the middle of the movie tightly edited to illustrate her character Amy’s falling in love with Aaron (Bill Hader). After a few saccharine sequences, Amy says in voiceover, “I hope this love montage ends like Jonestown.” We see a shot of a bench overlooking the East River and she quips, “Ooh, I think this is where Woody Allen met Soon-Yi.”
No matter how tart her jokes, though, Schumer’s mode is stale. At this point—after (500) Days of Summer, Friends with Benefits, They Came Together, and more that I’m forgetting—romcoms joking about romcom clichés is a cliché. Throughout her career Schumer has skewered convention, but her target here has so many holes poked in it already that there’s practically no meat left.
Trainwreck is ultimately conventional to the bone. It’s a story of a wild woman who isn’t even that wild, just young, horny, stoned and in New York, but who must be tamed nonetheless if she’s ever to settle into a fulfilling romantic life. She must unlearn the fear of commitment her father instilled in her at a young age (imagine anyone ever feeling the need to provide explanation as to why a male character fucks a lot), throw away her booze and bong, and assimilate in order to be with a guy who seems…fine? He’s a doctor and kind to her. I guess that’s big? The fact of the matter is that Amy’s a trainwreck only by the puritanical standards Schumer seems to have dedicated her career to subverting, and that Schumer’s version of growing up seems terribly dull. That arc is more tragic than the movie’s supposed trainwreck character.
Funny set pieces pad out a limp narrative—Ezra Miller (as Donald, an intern at the magazine Amy writes for) attempts to seduce Amy by calling her “Daddy” and asking her to suck his tits; Marisa Tomei and Daniel Radcliffe star in a movie within the movie about a dog walker that is way funnier than Trainwreck (Her: “Everyone’s left a dog in a hot car at some point in their lives.” Him: “I don’t think that’s true.”); there’s a terrific labyrinthine argument between Amy and Aaron that feels head-splittingly real; LeBron James (as himself) and Hader play a humorous game of 1 on 1 which should appeal to those who care about LeBron James. These all point to Schumer’s skill for shortform storytelling that we’re already well aware of, while the rest of the movie suggests she has a way to go before she gets the longform thing down.
Amy and Aaron fall in love, they part, there’s a sad, lonely montage with no knowing voiceover, and then (SPOILER ALERT) they reunite for their inevitable happy ending. In this particular case, Amy joins the cheerleaders she previously mocked when she discussed them with Aaron, a sports medicine specialist. In an otherwise empty basketball arena, Amy and the girls perform a dance that’s meant to prove to Aaron how much she loves him. You’re to smile at her for being goofy, root for the couple to end up together, and I guess be on board with the social value of cheerleaders after being asked to laugh at them at least a half dozen times prior to that. OK, whatever. Trainwreck wants to be at once earnest and a satire, but because those identities are at odds, it is ultimately neither. It’s not much of anything of consequence, really. Who says women’s movies can’t have it all? Amy Schumer, inadvertently.