Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in 'Trainwreck'

Review: ‘Trainwreck,’ The Strange Attraction of Amy Schumer and Bill Hader

Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in 'Trainwreck'
Amy Schumer and Bill Hader in ‘Trainwreck’
Why are Amy Schumer and Bill Hader attracted to each other in Trainwreck?

The easy answer is to say, “It’s a romantic comedy, stupid; it needs to be built around someone falling in love and the problems that are caused.” That’s certainly how many Hollywood studio products — and far too many independently-produced romantic pictures — are constructed. The emphasis is placed on the initial fireworks of a “meet cute,” followed by one or more obstacles that are thrown in front of the new couple, followed by a disruption in the relationship, followed by a repair in the relationship and, quite likely, a happy ending when the couple ends up together.

Trainwreck sticks to that tried-and-true formula for the most part — except for how the relationship sparks. Amy Schumer’s original screenplay sets up a modest “meet cute” by having Schumer’s character, a magazine writer in New York, get assigned to do a story she doesn’t want to do, a profile of a sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader). Amy doesn’t know or like sports or, apparently, medicine, which quickly becomes apparent to Aaron as the interview progresses. Yet she’s goofy and funny and she amuses Aaron, which prompts him to invite her out for a drink after they’ve both let their hair down for a bit at dinner. One drink leads to more drinks, right up to closing time at a bar, and then Amy invites herself along to Aaron’s apartment for a little sex.

The movie has already shown that Amy is not interested in monogamy, dating one guy after another in search of a quick sexual encounter before shoving the guy out the door. The one exception to that is Steven (John Cena), a very fit man with a very dim brain, who she has seen more than once. She enjoys the sex, but wants more; she encourages him to “talk dirty” to her during sex, but he’s too dense to come up with anything that could be considered remotely sensual.

It’s no surprise, then, when she comes on to Aaron on their first night together. He looks presentable, he’s very polite and kind, and he makes her laugh. It probably doesn’t hurt that he has a more than respectable career and a more than respectable income. True, nothing on that “first date” shoots off fireworks, but neither of them are kids, either. Their expectations have been adjusted by a degree of maturity that comes with age.

Aaron, it’s soon revealed, has not been in a serious relationship for six years. Amy, as already indicated with Steven, wants something more than the physical pleasures of sex, though she’s not quite ready to accept all the challenges involved. After their first night together, Aaron shocks Amy by calling and asking for a date. She resists the idea of a relationship, but she meets him to finish off the interview. Then she gets a call; her cranky and sickly father Gordon (Colin Quinn), who always preached against monogamy, has taken a tumble at the assisted living facility where he resides, and Aaron accompanies Amy as she rushes to his side.

Conveniently, Aaron is a doctor, and has brought his medical bag, so he is able to patch up Gordon with some stitches. Aaron has a good bedside manner, helping Gordon to relax, and this impresses Amy, since Gordon doesn’t like anyone. She’s already gone drinking with Aaron and had a satisfying sexual experience — apparently, two of her favorite activities — plus Aaron made her laugh (note how he concludes their dinner together), and now he’s been kinder than he needed to be with Gordon. That pushes her toward going out with Aaron again.

As for Aaron, he is not the love ’em and leave ’em type. He takes relationships seriously, and finds Amy funny (he’s a grinner and a smiler, as opposed to a garrulous laugh-out-loud kind of fellow), and enjoys spending time with her. He’s enveloped by his medical environment and surrounded with athletes; Amy is neither, yet she’s intelligent and sharp-witted and treats people, including her often insulting father, with respect for the most part, even if she puts them down under her breath. She keep her sniping to herself, and increasingly to Aaron, and he’s okay with that.

The movie’s humor is raunchy and sometimes mean-spirited, but rarely nasty. Eventually, the story runs into trouble when it decides it’s time to assert its serious intent, revolving around Gordon, Amy, and Amy’s younger sister Kim (Brie Larson), who has chosen monogamy and is happy with her marriage to Tom (Mike Birbiglia), a dowdy but loyal and supportive man, and cherishes her relationship with Tom’s precocious son. Kim, in other words, is the opposite of Amy, and the movie becomes overly didactic in setting the siblings up in such a manner and then dealing with the conflict.

Judd Apatow’s direction cements the movie as part of his filmography, an often loose assemblage of scenes that are only tangentially related to the central narrative, and is, as is usually the case with Apatow, excessive. As always, Apatow wants to pack as much as possible into the movie, not just comic bits and celebrity/athlete cameos, but also the drama of a dysfunctional family relationship.

That weighs the movie down unnecessarily, but at least it’s Schumer’s voice that is heard more often than others, which helps to distinguish it from other Apatow films that he’s either directed or produced. Schumer’s characters can sometimes be shrill and offensively stupid, but more often they are truly witty and distinctively daft, which makes Trainwreck anything but.

The film opens wide throughout Dallas on Friday, July 17.