Tuesday, August 18, 2015

TRAINWRECK: My review

Okay, I’ve given it over a month so I’m assuming most people have seen TRAINWRECK. If not, SPOILER ALERT. Come back tomorrow.

Like I said before, it’s waaaaay too long. Lots of scenes that don’t advance the story. And the audience is way ahead of you through most of the movie. When that happens, get to it already.

But there were a lot of funny moments and a few hilarious scenes, and LeBron James is now the funniest actor in Hollywood.

I love Amy Schumer. She has elevated slut to a high comic art. Her material is sharp, her delivery is pitch-perfect, and she is currently the queen of the zeitgeist. I don’t know why anyone thinks Lena Dunham is the voice of her generation when Amy Schumer exists on the same planet.

But I had a problem with the relationship in the movie. And it may just be me. If it is, I’m sure I’ll hear from you.

My problem is this: In any romantic relationship I need to know why each person is attracted to the other. They can be opposites, come from different backgrounds, huge age difference (except in a Woody Allen movie, it's creepy already), but I need to believe there’s something each person is getting from the other that is so great they fall in love.

I totally get why Amy falls for Bill Hader’s character. Here is the first real decent guy she’s met. He goes with her to see her father, provides medical care, doesn’t play mind games, puts up with her bullshit, has a personality (isn’t just a nice slug like her brother-in-law), and apparently the sex is good. (Her big complaint was that when he went down on her he… I forget what her big complaint was, but so did she.)

On other hand, why does he fall for her? Now step back for a moment. Forget that Amy Schumer is enjoying a massive pop culture glow and is clearly the current flavor-of-the-month. Don’t think of Amy Schumer, think of “Amy” the character. She pushes Hader away, doesn’t even want him breathing next to her in bed (a very funny scene), jumps down his throat when he says her loves her (not his fault it came at a funeral), refuses to say she loves him, is forever guarded, is constantly selfish, dresses inappropriately, and the one time he wanted her presence she ducked out to take a phone call. And the reality is, all the cute little quirks that are so endearing in the beginning of relationships become so fucking annoying you want to kill them after three years.

Again, this is just my pet peeve. Lots of times I see screen romances where we’re supposed to believe the couple is in love purely because the writer says they are.  Yes, casting is 80% and chemistry is key, but so is the writer’s obligation to justify just what the attraction is and what positive tangible element each person gets from the relationship. Being the ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY comic of the year isn’t enough. At least for me.

But it’s been said that if a studio comedy has four really funny scenes then it’s a good movie. I think the bar is a little low but okay. Using that yardstick, there were at least four (and probably closer to six), so TRAINWRECK delivers the goods.  But it’s not a home run. More like a double, although with Amy Schumer you can probably get to third base.

49 comments:

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Just saw it last night.

Ken, here's the reasons my wife says that the Doctor could fall for Amy.
I think he saw something much better in her than she did.
It's like when the good girl falls for the bad boy. She sees the good in him, and believes that with her love she can change him.

plus: She slept with him, before even having a first date. He hadn't been with someone in years. DON'T DISCOUNT NERDS LIKING SLUTS.
She wasn't using him to meet sports stars. Was interested in him and not who he knew.
She needed him and yet she didn't need him.
He likes taking care of people, helping them, and yet doesn't want someone who relies totally on him.

Mr. Hollywood said...

Sorry but to me Amy simply isn't funny. Her shtick: a female who sounds like Howard Stern! Ho hum.
I have watched her show ... nothing. I went to the film ... nothing. Not a smile. Not a laugh. Way too long but Judd Apatow (another flavor of the month and NOT a comedy genius by any stretch of the imagination!) is yet another supremely overrated talent.
Everything was telegraphed in the film. No surprises at all. And as for Lebron ... an actor he's not. A comic actor he's REALLY not!
All I can say is ... Amy is Meryl Streep next to Lena Dunham (another flavor of the month that leaves a sour taste in my mouth!)

Bill Avena said...

Comedy Central's late-night programming is based on the concept of NERDS LIKING SLUTS. Especially the phone sex ads that feature a vocal-fried squawk: "People think because I'm only 18 I don't know anything..." Look for a lot of nerd-rage in today's column.

CamrioKid said...

Perfect closing line to your post, Ken. Bravo.

Robert A. Buiey said...

Sorry but to me Amy simply isn't funny. Her shtick: a female who sounds like Howard Stern!

Howard Stern is one of the ten most significant comedic performers in history.

Chris Rock, talking about Stern's on-air schedule: "Reduce Howard Stern to an hour every four years, you'd have the most brilliant comedian who ever lived. It's not even close."

Steve C. said...

I was very surprised at how unfunny Trainwreck was. I like Amy but this was a bore. I left about the 2/3 mark. Apatow's movies are 4 or 5 jokes spread over 2.5 hours. I hadn't thought about why the Hader character would would like Amy but you are right. There was no reason other than the writer said so.

Peter said...

I haven't seen this yet (just opened last Friday in the UK) but the thing that surprised me most in the trailer is how funny John Cena comes across. Does he get a lot of screen time?

Also, Ken, I strongly recommend The Gift. It's a brilliant old school thriller but with a number of surprising twists that mean it's not the usual conventional Hollywood thriller.

Angry Gamer said...

It didn't bother me about the lack of reason for the Doc to fall for Amy.
To me it's a classic flip the script fantasy. We want to believe that a woman can sex it up like a man and then land the good catch.

Most of the "huh" moments looking for the Doc's love reason is due to this gender bias I think.

blinky said...

The ending of Trainwreck was foreshadowed but completely out of the reality of the movie. Somehow she learned to dance and had a month to rehearse a dance number with the professional cheerleaders. Was this Glee for 30 somethings?
Compare this to Chris Rocks latest movie. I totally believed the characters and relationships that Rock created in the movie. There was no place where they stepped out of the movies reality. And the ending was perfect: you knew he was going to get the girl.

Paul Dushkind said...

"I'm not a robot," not that there's anything wrong with that.

Questions you might answer on Friday, nothing to do with Trainwreck:

1. Today's television is so permissive, it seems like there is almost nothing they don't get away with. One joke for example: On HIMYM, a guy uses the word "ineffable." His angry girl friend says, "So now I'm not effable!"

Besides explicit obscenities, what is forbidden on network TV these days? Or to put it another way, what do the censors do to earn their pay?

2. Writers say that in the past, finding ways to adhere to restrictions made them better writers. So do you think today's writers not as good? Is an unwritten rule that you have to be racy just as restrictive as yesterday's censorship?

Fred from Scarborough said...

A bunt.

Breadbaker said...

I enjoyed it. I had the same reaction as Mrs. Bumble Bee Pendant on the relationship he was lonely and she was more interested in him than his athlete buddies. He isn't the hottest guy on the planet; she's hotter than he. Totally enough.

Agree on length and the last scene. I think she should take her next script to another director. But I found it fresh and fun.

Stephen Robinson said...

The issue Ken raises is also one I see a lot in beginning writer's work: I call it the First Person Narrator trap. The author creates a protagonist who is often a proxy for him or her but never takes the time to figure out why we should care about the character. I haven't seen TRAINWRECK but I wonder if Schumer even bothered to give her character "pet the dog" moments. In the trailer, she's uniformly a jerk -- to her brother-in-law, for example. She interacts with the homeless guy outside her building, but you don't see her buying him breakfast. Anything like that helps us to like her -- and then we are so invested in her, despite her quirks, that we want the romantic lead to love her as we do.

Ken mentioned Woody Allen and I think Allen does a good job with the relationship in ANNIE HALL: Alvy is a neurotic, arrogant, and self-involved but we also see why Annie would fall for him: On their first date, he's supportive of her singing, he's witty, and he's charming ("let's kiss first and then go digest our food..."). We want to be Alvy Singer on a first date. However, we also know how all of Singer's other traits, which we've seen in flashbacks to past relationships, will eventually cause Annie to break away from him, which she does.

I think the screenwriters of ANNIE HALL and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY understand that their male leads are flawed, which allows them to make a point of showing us positive, appealing traits. TRAINWRECK -- and I'd argue the same of Carrie Bradshaw in SEX AND THE CITY -- might not understand this. They are about flawed women who believe that true love involves finding the perfect man who will accept them just as they are.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Hollywood. I don't find her funny at all and have had many arguments with (mostly men) people who think I'm a crazy prude. I'm not a big fan of Stern's, but I have to admit he is funny. I'm an old crazy prude, I guess. There is nothing wrong with making jokes about women and sex. But this just comes across as 'dirty'. It is a very fine line between 'clean' and 'dirty', and that line moves constantly.

sigh.

Pam, St. Louis

Daddy Background said...

What I'd want to know is whether there's anything in the movie that's funnier than the button on this post.

BAM!

Jon B. said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again: If you leave a movie before it is over (which I have never done, regretfully in some cases), then your opinion of the entire movie is WORTHLESS. Why don't you get that?

If you feel compelled to opine about a movie that you walked out of, I urge you to START your commentary with the fact that you left at the X minute mark (and so, therefore, you do not know if the movie was any better or worse thereafter).

[Also, if feel compelled to leave early, please do so quietly so as not call attention to yourself or otherwise ruin the experience for anyone else.]

I feel certain that no one will adjust their behavior after reading what I just wrote. Either you already get it or you don't.

tb said...

haven't seen it, but totally agree with your main point. I see it a lot - "WHY do they like each other?" Shit, even Ross and Rachel had zero chemistry

Today in tasteless jokes said...

Mr. Hollywood said...
All I can say is ... Amy is Meryl Streep next to Lena Dunham (another flavor of the month that leaves a sour taste in my mouth!)

Well, Lena just needs to wash herself a bit better down there.

Nikki said...

Ken, thank you for addressing a fault I see in romantic writing over and over and over - you need to show the audience why the two characters are attracted to each other! So many TV and film romances fall flat because it's hard to understand why the characters like each other. "Character A deserves Character B's love because Character A is the protagonist" isn't a compelling reason.

Stephen Robinson said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again: If you leave a movie before it is over (which I have never done, regretfully in some cases), then your opinion of the entire movie is WORTHLESS. Why don't you get that?

****

SER: That's hardly a worthless opinion. It states to me that someone found a movie so terrible that they left despite having oaid money to see it. What I don't get is the idea that film should be an endurance exercise.

I think if you walked out midway through The Sixth Sense or Fight Club, you couldn't speak to how effective the twist endings were, but you could speak to the pacing and the entertainment value up to that point.

Has an unfunny movie ever gotten funnier midway through? Has a poorly paced, poorly acted, poorly directed movie suddenly turned from Fantastic Four to The Seven Samuari midway?

Bob B. said...

I have never liked Schumer for the same reason I don't like Chelsea Handler (or however you spell it). They're one joke comedians. Oh look, I'm a slut. Ha Ha Ha. Not a lot of humor in hearing the same joke 10 times in 30 minutes. However these ladies have legions of fans. So does Two and a Half Men and Two Broke Girls which fall into the same "one joke over and over" category. I just prefer my humor to have more thought, more structure.

Ellen said...

I thought the movie was flawed but very funny. And I DID buy the attraction. There was enough clever banter between the two for me to believe he was smitten. Maybe it's a female thing.

Anyway, I agree there were some scenes that should have been the cut, like that surrealistic one with Matthew Broderick et al. I guess Apatow thought he was being Monty Python, but didn't work.

For my money, the movie would have been improved if Bill Hader's character had an arc, too. Just a little tweak, you know? If he had to change just a smidge to meet her somewhere near the middle, it would have come together for me in a much more satisfying way.

Anonymous said...

Howard Stern is a comedian? I'm a fan but he is no comedian. What is his comedy? Putting chicks on the Symbian and talking to Beetlejuice?

404 said...

Gee, Stephen Robinson -- thanks for the ANNIE HALL spoilers.

DrBOP said...

Fred From Scarberia

http://instantrimshot.com/


And Ken, LOTS of kicks in those annoying 3 years which are WELL worth it.....
then vayter down the road.

Well Well Well said...
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GS in SF said...

On an unrelated note but DrBop's photo reminded me of something brought up on Howard Stern yesterday: John Candy was only 43 years old when he died. How is that possible? What a talent that we will never see again. Stripes, Vacation, Uncle Buck, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. On a related note: here was a man that in no way was considered "Hollywood Handsome" yet always seemed to get the girl (or the guy in the case of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains) and we always knew why even if the script never established it. His humanity won us over every time. Today's actors may be funny but they seem a bit strange and unapproachable (like Zack Galifinakis or Jack Black).

Maybe from your private time spent with him on Volunteers you could share some insight on what made John Candy such a great talent. Would love to hear.


VP81955 said...

And regarding John Candy, don't forget "Only the Lonely," a superb romantic comedy with plenty of heart.

I'm delighted "Trainwreck" is a boon to Bill Hader's career. Not only is he a terrific comedic actor, but he has a classic Hollywood sensibility about him. (That became evident from the work he has done with Turner Classic Movies, most notably on the several years he hosted "Essentials Jr.") He reminds me a bit of Fred MacMurray in that he seemingly works best as a complement to a leading lady with a dominant personality, just as MacMurray complemented the likes of Carole Lombard ("Hands Across the Table"), Claudette Colbert ("The Gilded Lily") and of course Barbara Stanwyck ("Remember the Night" and "Double Indemnity").

In the romantic comedy screenplay I've recently completed, my dream leads are Bill Hader and Anna Faris (who hasn't had a movie hit in several years); I could see them generating lots of comic fireworks. Keep your fingers crossed.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I agree with Bob, Amy Schumer is another example of what's wrong with many female performers in the entertainment industry: trashing themselves out to appeal to the majority male demographic, since as the saying goes, "men think with their penises, not their brains." There's like this unwritten rule: if a female comedian/entertainer doesn't present herself as a trashy hoe, she isn't funny; that's probably one of the reasons everybody hated Kathy Greenwood on WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? even though she was one of the better female performers they had.

But then again, this is what I've been talking about for years (yeah, here I go again, the same complaint that -according to Ken's fellow blog readers- makes me an uncultured and repressed jerkasss): this is what's become of entertainment in modern times, it's just deevolved into a nonstop peep show. Every time I look on television, network or cable, all I ever see is characters in bed with each other; whenver I see trailers for movies, all I ever see is the hot female characters stripping down to their underwear and coming onto the male characters. And as Bob pointed out, whenever I see female entertainers, they're all, "Hi there, I'm a cheap slut! Seriously folks, let me tell about all the losers I've slept with!" Even Wendy Williams seems to always talk about people's sex lives on her show. And pop music? Is there any song in which Bruno Mars doesn't sing about getting his rocks off? And to think . . . 60 years ago, you couldn't even show a married couple in the same bed. Enough with the sex already! Like cigarettes or alcohol, it's supposed to be enjoyed responsibly . . . and yet now, it's controversial to show people smoking and drinking on screen (to the point we have all these gruesome no smoking PSAs from former smokers), yet we have to keep showing more and more people engaging in reckless, selfish, and irresponsible sexual activities because that's entertainment? Why don't we just start having sitcoms about abortion while we're at it? After all, in real life, there's consequences of this type of sexual behavior.

VP81955 said...

Every time I look on television, network or cable, all I ever see is characters in bed with each other; whenver I see trailers for movies, all I ever see is the hot female characters stripping down to their underwear and coming onto the male characters.

In the pre-Code era, all they had were the hot female characters stripping down to their underwear...and when said character was Joan Blondell, Loretta Young or the lady in my avatar, nobody was complaining.

Dixon Steele said...

Opposites Attract.

Ike Iszany said...

The charm of Amy Shumer is lost on me.

Anonymous said...
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Big Griff said...
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Roger Owen Green said...

I liked it. I agree with BBP's reasoning why the doc likes Amy. And she's also a challenge, not like the woman who dumped him, he finds her attractive, all sorts of possible reasons

Wayne said...

I wonder if my folks will like Train Wreck.
They going to see it because they liked the train wrecks in Silver Streak, Unstoppable and Runaway Train.

Anonymous said...
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mmryan314 said...

@ Wayne- Trust me. They won`t. Let us know.

Anonymous said...
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Barry Traylor said...

Thanks for the review Ken, now I know I can skip the movie. I'll get it from Netflix for my wife as she may like it.

Peter said...

I saw it and loved it. I agree it's too long and has too much of Judd Apatow's penchant for pop culture references, but it's hilarious. As good as LeBron James is, for me the revelation of the movie was John Cena. He totally killed it as the boyfriend who's clearly gay. The cinema scene had me in hysterics. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time when he threatens the guy with "You're an asshole. You know what I do to assholes? I lick them".

Storm said...

Hells yeah, nerds love sluts! When I was still a single fangirl nerdslut on the prowl, I used to work Comic Con like a bloody singles cruise. That was when there were hardly any females (of ANY age) attending; I had my pick of HUNdreds of men who had NO idea how to please me! Good times.

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

Mike said...

A flash of lightning, a crash of thunder signify: the return of Storm.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Storm That wasn't until THE BIG DANG THEORY; prior to that, sex was one of the farthest things from nerds' minds, which is more than likely why they had no idea how to please you. But people like you are one of the reasons I denounce cons altogether: too many deranged and depraved lunatics at those things.

Peter said...

Joseph, I get the impression you think sex is an evil act. Has it occurred to you that you wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for this evil act you find so disgusting?

Mike said...

@Joseph Scarbrough: I think you'd find Storm is a good hearted soul.

Storm said...

"Deranged and depraved lunatics..."? Have we met? You say that like it's a bad thing.

How very kind of you to assume that me and my Con-going career are younger than TBBT, but factually, I was referring to the 80's and 90's. I *talked* to them about stuff they/we liked before we'd shag like wild voles, thereby befriending (most of) them first; I didn't just line 'em up and yell "Next!". Don't shame me for knowing my prey and playing an aggressive game in my league. I mean, really.

Wow, sweetie, with all due respect, you really do need to get laid. You seem awfully tense, it's not good for you, you'll live longer.

@Mike: Cheers, darling! IIRC, you turned me on to some awesome Brian ("THE LOUDEST MAN IN BRITAIN!!") Blessed clips I'd never seen before? If so, thanks again. If not, piss off. (said good-heartedly! ;)

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

F. Timmy Abraham said...

Howard Stern is a comedian? I'm a fan but he is no comedian.

Wh-wh-what? You're a Stern fan, but he's no comedian? What is it that you're a fan OF? His live ad reads? His foster cats? His sizzling good looks?

XJill said...

I think Trainwreck was good, and I'm not a big Apatow or Schumer fan. If it had been 15-20 minutes shorter it would've been very good. Was the the doc like AMy's character? She's honest, he's attracted to her & she doesn't like him for his contacts/because he's a sports doctor, she doesn't even care about that really.