It seems hard to believe that Judd Apatow has not had a big hit in the last eight years. Ever since The 40-Year Old Virgin in 2004, the man has specialized in raunchy, yet strangely insightful comedies dealing with relationships, friendships, and how those two are affected in a variety of scenarios. But unlike Virgin and Knocked Up – both pulling in $109.2 million and $148.7 million, respectively – his last two directorial efforts, Funny People and This is 40, underperformed with critics and at the box office. Perhaps with Trainwreck, Mr. Apatow has gotten back on track.
Now, the first thing I noticed about the film, even during television spots, is how surprisingly dated it is. I wouldn’t dare mean to count it against the film, I just thought it was interesting. As a person who just casually pays attention to professional basketball, it was an interesting ‘time capsule’ sort of moment to see Amar’e Stoudemire associated with former team the New York Knicks. In fact, it was rather illuminating to see players possessing any remote amount of talent playing for the franchise – with the exception of Carmelo Anthony, of course. The real shocker, though, was seeing LeBron James without a receding hairline, because now he really needs those headbands.
What is not dated is the comedy. This time around, however, Apatow is not the one providing the material as well as directing it. Instead, it is leading lady Amy Schumer who has done the screenwriting. I must say, one of my first impressions with Trainwreck was that Schumer and Apatow are almost perfect for each other. Schumer delivers a fantastic script full of sharp, biting humor about living independently, the fears of commitment, and the struggles of living as a young 20-something in one of the greatest cities in the world. Like Apatow’s earlier work, the punch lines are almost gut-bustingly raunchy and laugh-a-minute.
Additionally, like other Apatow films, Trainwreck deals with a certain level of gravitas. Without spoiling too much, those moments involve familial drama between Amy, her sister (Brie Larson), and her father (Colin Quinn), who as we know from advertising has preached the message that monogamy is not realistic. This issue, among other reasons, causes a lot fiction between the three. It is clear that Schumer sensitively dealt with these issues while writing the script, and therefore as an actress, and that sensitivity is matched well by Apatow’s assured direction.
Apatow’s direction, however, was my only problem with this film. During more serious moments, steadier direction is absolutely required in order to tread on solid ground, and Apatow’s experience with such moments that he has written and directed in his other films does him well with Trainwreck. His skill comes out in spades. What was problematic, however, was how this assured direction remained a constant throughout the film, regardless of whether scenes were meant to be strictly funny or otherwise. The pacing of this film felt slightly languid, and while that has no bearing on the effectiveness of Schumer’s humor – not sorry for that – it does affect the entire viewing experience. A more quickly paced film would have likely added to the punchiness of each joke.
While we have long before known about Schumer’s comedic prowess, from a cinematic standpoint, Trainwreck kind of feels like a subdued coming out party for her as a future comedy film star. Even though this is her first film as a bona fide star, I think it proves that Schumer’s star will keep burning bright for many years. The pointed nature of the comedy she writes only points to longevity. Bill Hader, whose star has seemingly been fading since his prime during the late 2000s, has potentially made his comeback with both this role and as Fear in Inside Out. I also loved how game athletes like LeBron James and John Cena were for the material.
Not only have critics latched onto this most recent Apatow production, it appears that audiences have, as well. Upon its theatrical premiere, Trainwreck received an A- on CinemaScore and brought in $30.2 million from its opening weekend. For a little perspective, Knocked Up racked up $30.69 million on its opening weekend, so not only does Trainwreck have the second-highest opening gross of any Apatow film, it could quite possibly be the first since Knocked Up to break the $100 million barrier. But let’s not discount Schumer’s achievement as a writer and comedic lead, because it is due to her material that Apatow was afforded this comeback.
One more time, just because: Schumer’s humor. I don’t mean to say I am the first to think of such rhyming cheesiness, but I know that it tickled my fancies and it will annoy most others. So, cheers.