Levitt Reviews Trainwreck (C+)

trainwreck

(*Premiering This Month on HBO)

To most, Amy Schumer doesn’t fit as the lead to a romantic comedy. Her salty/guarded stand-up stage persona reads more like a caustic best friend than a doting girlfriend. But the film, “Trainwreck” does a good job softening Amy Shumer’s more acerbic insulting edges though still keeping her character fundamentally dysfunctional.

I think its safe to assume Bill Hader is no one’s conception of a romantic leading man. He’s known for playing characters on SNL with a wacky and slightly menacing quality. It took a good 45 + minutes into Trainwreck for me to finally accept him as your basic boring romantic man. I would never sit Hader and Schumer at the same table at a wedding much less match them up romantically. Frankly it looks like Schumer could easily bench press Hader and that, if lifted in the air, its likely Hader’s gangly body would snap like a twig. So, it did take a lot for me to disregard their asymetrical relationship to imagine them in a romantic scenario. Also, in theory Schumer’s character should have disdained the square sports doctor as Hader’s character should have steered clear of the Slutty Schumer.  The film, I think wisely recognizes the couple’s unlikely romance and purposely sets them up in an “opposites attract” kind of context. Furthermore, the real twist of this film also is that Shumer is set up as more the man in the relationship: she’s Commitment-phobic, promiscuous, and a partier. whereas Hader is more stable, square, and romantic. Its this rom-com twist, I feel, that lies at the film’s center and the choice whether or not you buy into it as a viewer is is at the core of whether or not you like Trainwreck.

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The scenes between Shumer and Hader’s character are enjoyable.  They move from the writer/subject idea of the early scenes (She’s writing an article about hader’s as a sports doctor to the stars) to their dating phase. Many such films, when casting two comedians as the leads, would fall into the trap of having long scenes of the two doing comedic riffs that don’t add anything to the relationship and just look a lot like what they are:  two comedians trying to “outfunny the other” (random scenes in Knocked Up or “She’s Out Of My League” come to mind). Although, there are a few short exceptions, most of the dialogue in Trainwreck, though, furthers the relationship and supports the couple’s unlikely yet growing intimacy. Schumer’s initial reluctance to form a permanent bond with Hader gives way to a true fondness and respect. At times, though, I found Hader’s character, in many ways, a bit too perfect (he even likes to spoon!). Hader’s eager willingness to gloss over Schumer’s reckless past also seems a bit too pat.  When confronted with Schumer’s past, Hader doesn’t even seem even slightly skeeved or wary. His one imperfection as a character(if you can really call it that) is that he likes one of Billy Joel’s lesser hits, “Uptown Girl”.  Oh the shame!!!.

The flaws in the film’s narrative are not extremely detrimental to the whole experience because mostly come from the unrealistic, cartoon-like supporting characters.  Because this was Schumer’s first foray into film/rom-com, I think  it was her fundamental insecurity (or producers) that tempted them to cast her fellow comedian friends and sports figures in  cameos/supporting roles.  For instance,  Vanessa Bayer plays Schumer’s nervous/innapropriate co-worker.One scene has Vanessa Bayer’s character interrupting Schumer’s eulogy of her father to reveal that Bayer had once dated a black man. Additionally, Hader’s best friend, ridiculously portrayed by The Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron James makes no sense in the context of the film or in general. The unlikely bond of Hader and Lebron James is made worse by Lebron’s over-protective, mother-hen vibe and his constant cautioning to Schumer not to hurt his friend is ludicrous and largely unfunny.

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Other unfunny and buffoonish supporting characters include an intern who, although only 16 years old,  amzingly already boasts  a whole varied sexual repertoire and even a “safeword”. His preposterous drunken scene with Schumer toward the end of the film is one that I think should have been tossed.

In addition to the silly supporting characters, the  pattern of the relationship is a little cookie cutter. From the ailing father character (the mortality rate for dads in romcoms must be pretty high) to the The obvious scenes where Schumer doesn’t get along with Hader’s friends at a party and goes out of her way to be controversial.  For instance, feeling bored, Schumer suddenly tells a group of Hader’s assembled guests about the time that an errant condom that got stuck in her cervix during sex.  Only in film comedy would someone’s natural response to a boring party would be to blurt out their most embarassing sexual experience they ever had.  For must of us, living through it the first time would be plenty!

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The more ridiculous elements aside, ultimately I think Schumer does a fairly good job acquitting herself as a formidable film presence. Throughout Trainwreck  She is able to play the lighter moments, the more moving moments with equal ease. The one slight imperfection in her acting was that she struggled a bit to have her face to light up and convey true love for Bill Hader. But, I’m not sure if you can really fault her too much for that. Much more established actresses than Schumer would probably confess that the difficulty level of acting like your in love with Bill Hader was pretty damn high!

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Levitt Sounds Off On Project Greenlight

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I  watched the Premiere of Project Greenlight last night with much interest because I’m also an aspiring film-maker.  More of a writer than director etc but  in the ballpark.  Anyhow , first off not crazy about the show’s premise: the fact that Affleck, and Damon sponsor a contest and  help to hand pick the director of a comedy film There’s just something too…” Success anointing success about it”.   I realize that most deals in Hollywood done by successful people. this way but the fact that two primo sucess stories in the room and are personally choosing the director(with the exception of the one they actually picked) are expected to kiss their Affleck and Damon’s ass and make a case for themselves is just too much fawning for me.  At least with shows like “Undercover Boss” the guy in the power position at least pretends to be on equal footing to begin with so that he can get a true perspective of his workers and not their “Best sucking up behavior”

To Heighten the stakes, In the very beginning of the show, Affleck and Damon claim they are putting their integrity/career on the line with their choices.  Obviously, they’re not.  The prior winners of Project Greenlight were barely a blip on the movie radar Yet Ben managed to go on to Box Office, Oscar and nanny boffing success regardless. Now, if Damon and Affleck, would agree to give all their money/posessions to charity if the winner of Project Greenlight didn’t succeed, then there would be real drama and we could see  the duo get more emotionally invested in the show,  instead of appearing occasionally in perfunctory phone conversations about this or that insignificant detail.

After some preliminary back and forth with Damon, Affleck, and the rest of the other judges (The Farrelly Brothers) and Brown (who argued for ethnic diversity), The show went out of its way to pick a volatile/arrogant director because they thought he had the most talent. Even though the director they chose specialized in dark films and they were shooting a broad comedy. But,   Its also no secret that dicks are good for ratings: (ie Simon Cowell, or Dennis o’leary SharkTank). So, its likely they picked this guy at least partly because he was an obnoxious jerk.  I mean  No one is going to tune in to watch a show about a a well-run movie production team lead by nice guys high-fiving eachother

In the end result, if these contest driven reality shows (America Idol, The Voice etc) prove anything at all, its that you can’t engineer success. Even successful people occasionally produce shit -literally and figuratively- (Affleck and Damon not excluded). In addition,  How can anyone really be expected to really “Create good art” in such a high stress atmosphere in which every decision they make is filmed for HBO, high profile stars like Affleck and Damon are breathing down your back,  and every decision you try to make is second guessed by a committee?