Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Dueling Critics: Trainwreck

16:00 July 27, 2015
By: David Vicari, Fritz Esker

Amy Schumer stars as a career woman afraid of entering a monogamous relationship until she meets a nice guy sports doctor played by Bill Hader.

Fritz: Director Judd Apatow teams with star/screenwriter Amy Schumer in the romantic comedy Trainwreck. Even though Schumer's getting a lot of press for her hit Comedy Central show Inside Amy SchumerTrainwreck feels a lot like an Apatow film, for better and worse. Some of it's very funny, but there are dead stretches where the endless improv falls flat and the movie clocks in at over two hours. But you liked it a little more than I did. What about it made those issues irrelevant for you?

David: While Apatow's movies are, in general, silly comedies, they contain lots of improvisation and tend to reveal little moments of truth, and that's why I feel he is this generation's John Cassavetes. For the uninitiated, Cassavetes was a trailblazer of independent filmmakers. He financed his first film – a drama about an interracial relationship titled Shadows – in the late 1950s and it contained much improvisation and was shot in a documentary style. Other notable films by Cassavetes include 1968's Faces and 1974's A Woman Under the Influence

Sure, Apatow takes the long way around, but more often then not as is the case here, in scene after scene it's funny and engaging and the film's length is rarely felt. As often as this movie made me laugh, I'll gladly take some gags that don't work and the occasional dead spots. This is definitely an Apatow film in style, but I give Schumer lots of credit for the screenplay/improv. Lots of the smart, funny dialog is her material.

Now, I am higher on Trainwreck than you, but you did like the film. What actually worked for you?

Fritz: LeBron James is quite funny. He's apparently not just a better basketball player than the Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire, but he's apparently funnier and more charismatic on screen, too (so much so the film suffers when Stoudemire replaces James as Hader's primary athlete patient in the 2nd hour).

Tilda Swinton is absolutely hilarious as Schumer's narcissistic boss. She's primarily known as a "serious" actress, and she's very good at that, but her performance here makes me want to see her in more comedies, too. The venerable character actor Norman Lloyd, who worked with Chaplin, Welles, and Hitchcock, also has some funny scenes with Colin Quinn, who plays Schumer's father.

Lastly, Schumer and Hader have a good chemistry together. But I just kept wanting to see the 100-105 minute version of this film instead of the 122 minute cut.

David: Yes, LeBron James is hilarious here. He has great on-screen charisma and excellent comedic timing. And yes, I wish he had more scenes. Maybe his handlers were uneasy of the thought of showing James having a surgery on screen for fear of fans thinking it's real and that his professional career may be in trouble. Who knows?

Swinton is great too. Because she looks so different I didn't recognize her and I was trying to figure out who was the actress in the role. It was driving me crazy.

Lloyd's scenes are funny, and the cinema history he brings with him is astounding.

Also, WWE superstar and action movie actor John Cena, as Schumer's muscle-bound boyfriend, is very good here both comedically and dramatically. You feel bad for his character when Schumer betrays him.

Romantic comedies only work if the main couple have chemistry, and Schumer and Hader are terrific together. They play off each other well in the comedy scenes as well as the weightier dramatic moments. The quiet scene where Hader bares his soul to Schumer feels real. It sounds like something a person would really say and not artificial movie dialog. 

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