The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



The tagline for Trainwreck is “We all know one.” That's so true. We all know that one person who makes bad choices, can't figure out even the simplest life lessons, and seems hell-bent on self-destruction. (If you don't know someone like that, it might be you.) It is a peculiar mindset, one that doesn't make sense to those who don't possess it. A big part of what makes Trainwreck so engaging is that it shows you what it's like to be a trainwreck from the inside - and it does so hilariously.

The movie begins with a flashback in which a cheating father (Colin Quinn) tries to explain to his two young daughters why he and their mother are divorcing. He also tells them that “monogamy isn't realistic.” We then meet the older of those two girls as a grown-up. Amy (Amy Schumer) has taken her dad's advice to heart. She dates a muscular guy, Steven (John Cena), but screws around on him constantly. She drinks too much and smokes a lot of pot. At work, Amy struggles to please her boss (Tilda Swinton), yet never seems able to because she's not really all that committed to the job. Although her life is a mess, she is continually critical of well-adjusted sister Kim (Brie Larson). Amy's outlook on life is challenged when she's assigned to write a magazine piece on Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), a sports doctor about to perform a revolutionary surgical technique on a pro basketball player. There's an immediate attraction, but Aaron is a Good Guy, and Amy is not only unused to those, she also doesn't know what to do with one.

Roughly the first half of Trainwreck is dedicated to showing how scattered Amy's life is. “Walks of shame” and hangovers are normal for her. This pathetic behavior is rendered funny because the screenplay – written by Schumer – is so specific about the mechanics of this dysfunction. For example, upon waking up in an unfamiliar location following a one-night stand, she spots a Scarface poster on the wall and says, “Please don't let this be a dorm room!” Schumer is known for fearlessness in her stand-up comedy, often drawing on embarrassing self-analysis as the basis for humor. Trainwreck preserves that, presenting a character who, while good-natured, stubbornly refuses to accept the consequences of her poor choices. It doesn't shy away from showing – or finding laughter in – her arrested development.

The back half of the movie shows what happens when Amy gets into a serious relationship. After realizing that Aaron wants to be so much more than just a casual fling, she panics. Everything she's ever taught herself indicates that she can only hurt a guy such as this, and so she gradually starts to sabotage herself. This does not discourage Aaron, thereby forcing her to examine what it really means to be a mature, functioning adult in a partnership with another person. Schumer and Hader have very strong chemistry that makes the dynamic between their characters feel genuine. Whereas Schumer shows the self-loathing that underlies Amy's actions, Hader makes it clear that Aaron sees beyond her shortcomings, finding positive qualities in her that she cannot find in herself.

Trainwreck was directed by Judd Apatow, a filmmaker/creator known for successfully mixing raunchy humor with identifiable human stories. He helps Schumer translate her comedy to the medium of cinema, making sure to balance the more outrageous moments (and there are lots of them) with some that are grounded in reality. The end result is that you laugh loudly and frequently, while also finding yourself emotionally invested in what's going on. It's probably no spoiler to suggest that Amy does indeed learn to look at life in a new way; despite the R-rated laughs, and maybe even because of them, her transformation is entirely credible.

This is Amy Schumer's breakout role. Yes, she's a stand-up and television star already. Trainwreck shows that she's capable of pretty much anything. That she nails the awkward scenes of immaturity is no surprise. That she so deftly handles the more dramatic ones is. This is a full-blooded performance from someone who has a total grasp on the character she's portraying. The supporting players capably back her up. Apatow even manages to elicit uproarious work from the two cast members who aren't professional actors. John Cena and LeBron James (playing himself as one of Aaron's patients) get some of the heartiest laughs in the whole movie.

Many modern romantic-comedies are shallow and stupid. Trainwreck is one that has something substantive to say. That makes it truly special. Even if there are a few sections that digress a bit – and stretch the running time to a slightly too-long 125 minutes – the film is incredibly satisfying as both a comedy and a character study.

( 1/2 out of four)

Trainwreck is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use. The running time is 2 hours and 5 minutes.

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