Trainwreck a reminder why rom coms were popular in the first place

Amy Schumer explodes onto the silver screen in Trainwreck. Photos courtesy Universal Pictures.

Trainwreck isn’t the shot in the arm that will reignite our flame with the formulaic American rom-com, but it will remind us why we fell in love with it in the first place.

Written by and starring Comedy Central upstart Amy Schumer, the movie establishes her as an incorrigible tramp who spends her days working for a men’s magazine and her nights drinking heavily and tearing through the New York City hookup scene. But that all changes when her editor assigns her to profile a sports physician, Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), whom she promptly falls for.

The movie is, for the most part, hilarious. Schumer and Hader deliver sterling, subtle performances in lead roles, and LeBron James and John Cena are adroit in sizable, fantastically written parts. Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei also put on a show in bit roles.

Universal did a great job of getting the funniest punchlines in the trailers, but only for extended sequences. Jokes spoiled by the trailers are even funnier in the feature.

Trainwreck was sold as a movie to flip the gender roles of a standard romantic comedy, in which the woman is clingy and the man is breezy and unwilling to settle down, but it only does this early in Amy Townsend (Schumer) and Conners’ relationship, as well as an early skit at the pitch meeting when Townsend is given the assignment in which workplace gender roles are uncomfortably flipped and skewered. The film is at its worst when trying to be the gender-negative romantic comedy.

Fortunately, the sketches move on to better things because Schumer is a more creative writer than that, and the character dynamics move on because these characters have a lot more to them. Townsend kind of drops her job, typically a sin for these kinds of movies, but it’s to take care of her ailing father (Colin Quinn), and later, to address her alcohol dependency. Conners continues pushing breakthrough surgical procedures throughout the film.

For her second feature in a row, Brie Larson is the most talented player by a wide margin but in a bit role as Amy Townsend’s sister, Kim. There need to be more movies where Larson is the main character doing most of the acting. She’s the leading lady we need right now.

Trainwreck becomes less satire and more formula as it moves on, but this is what sees it through — the characters are real and multi-dimensional and viewers care about what happens to them. The romantic comedy fell by the wayside as the genre more and more began to present caricatures of the main players instead of fleshed-out characters. Studios brought the formula, but not the characters that brought that formula to life. The average one was like going to a house party where the house itself was hosting, and its inhabitants, friends you care about who invited you and convinced you it’d be a good time, are nowhere to be found. Trainwreck tries to bring that house down and fails, but at least the homeowners are present here.

It all kind of turns into About Last Night at a certain point, with Townsend’s father playing her confidant while Conners confides in James (as himself), and from there it starts picking up cliches like burrs. It gets ugly, particularly with the Grand Romantic Gesture scene. It should also be noted that Townsend ultimately rejects her freewheeling lifestyle to be with Conners, affirming the values romantic comedies normally try to uphold. A deconstruction this is not. If viewers are looking for something that truly rejects romantic comedies, (500) Days of Summer and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind remain unchallenged.

While Ant-Man underperformed even modest expectations with a $58 million opening after expecting $60 million, Trainwreck dramatically overperformed, pulling in $30.2 million after only expecting a little over $10 million. Minions came in between, so technically that’s only good for no. 3, but the haul is shocking and a testament to the popularity of Schumer’s sketch comedy, Inside Amy Schumer. The overtly feminist show, currently producing its fourth season, is strong enough that Schumer was offered The Daily Show seat, but turned it down because she thought she could do better in the movies. It seems she was correct. Expect to see much more of her over the next few years.

Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Like, if you haven’t watched a movie, how can you badmouth it? I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@gmail.com.

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