Movie Review: Trainwreck
By Ben Gruchow
July 20, 2015
Then we meet Hader’s character, and the movie jumps to them having dinner, then ahead, and ahead, and ahead; Trainwreck begins to shift its gears into “romantic comedy” and starts to go off the rails almost immediately. There’s little reason for Schumer to take much of an interest in Hader; there’s even less reason for Hader to take interest in Schumer. The movie certainly doesn’t think so; it loses focus on her existing nature with alarming rapidity, and repositions her as that ancient cinematic creature that wasn’t part of the narrative (and, really, isn’t very welcome): the broken soul who needs to be fixed through a Special Someone.
There’s a bigger problem, though: Hader and Schumer have no rhythm or comfort together, and little chemistry overall. There’s a hint of it at the end of the movie, in the way that you have a sort of chemistry with a neighbor who’s always parking in front of your house. The disconnect between their meeting and the first pronouncement of love is truly pretty staggering. Let’s draw a rough comparison: Bridesmaids is a film with a similar arc and incident. The love story in Trainwreck proceeds as if we had seen the Kristen Wiig character meet Chris O’Dowd’s police officer, then watched them hang out in the convenience-store parking lot, and then the next time we see them it’s the end of the movie and they’re an item. The difference is that Bridesmaids takes time to depict the relationship growing from neutrality to respect to affection, and Trainwreck appears to expect us to make the leap on spec.
Even setting this aside, though, Bridesmaids is a comparison that illustrates the concept being executed with sympathy and consistency and rhythm. It gets away with being familiar storytelling territory because we buy into the personalities and natures of Wiig’s and O’Dowd’s characters, and the things they do make sense. Every time Schumer and Hader appear in the context of being a couple, both of them look uncomfortable. Even more problematic, we can’t square the behavior in the current scene with any personality displayed in a past scene.
There’s a sequence that abuses this liability, to the point of just about turning the rest of the film sour: the two characters get into a fight because Amy wasn’t in the room to support Aaron during an awards ceremony; she wasn’t in the room because she was put in a circumstance where her career depended on her being on the phone. We saw this and know it, and she explains it - and yet it the movie appears to use this incident as an indictment against Amy’s character. Put bluntly: The movie implicates a decision by Amy to show dedication to her work as a deficiency of her character, in the face of supporting her boyfriend at his awards ceremony. There’s no observation here, no spin, no wrinkle in the formula. The movie isn’t even making a claim for balance: the scene is played straight. It’s bizarrely retrograde and unpleasant, and the unquestionable low point of a film that’s already throwing well under the level of ambition we expect, given the level of talent in front of and behind the camera.
There are other things in my notes that merit observation: the flabbiness of the editing and the tendency to let scenes and moments spin out past their optimal conclusion, the fact that every actor apart from Schumer and Hader is basically playing themselves, the shallow feints toward psychological depth and inner conflict that come out of nowhere and lead into nowhere. All of these are in service to the larger flaw, though: this is a film with no discipline, one that seemingly lacks the courage to follow through on an intriguing premise and devolves into an absolutely standard rom-com in its second half - albeit one with a higher-than-expected percentage of implausibly choreographed cheerleader routines.