Why “Trainwreck” Was a Successful Romantic Comedy

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Sometimes, a new rom com comes out, and it has a predictable-but-cute plot line, and attractive stars, and everything in the equation is technically RIGHT, in terms of creating a movie that is mediocre but entertaining.  But, recently, there have been so many flops, prompting us to wonder, Is the rom com dead?  Did it peak in the primetime of Nora Ephron movies, and now it’s just no longer a good genre?

Trainwreck (2015), Judd Apatow’s newest movie, disproves the theory that the rom com is dead.  It’s living proof that a movie can have a cliche plot line-in this case, a girl (Amy Schumer) who doesn’t believe in monogamy because of her daddy issues finds a nice boy (Bill Hader) who proves her wrong- and still steal our hearts.  The movie doesn’t come out until July (I was lucky enough to see a sneak preview at my college), so I won’t give anything specific away.  But I will tell you what makes this movie so unique and funny.

One reason why this movie is so refreshing is its stars, Bill Hader and Amy Schumer.  Bill Hader is not some generically handsome Hollywood star- he’s a legitimately funny actor who can actually act.  He is talented!  He is a chameleon!  He could convincingly play Krisin Wiig’s gay, depressed, angsty twin brother in The Skeleton Twins; he somehow made Adolf Hitler funny in the television series Man Seeking Woman; and he mastered the flamboyant, ridiculous, club-expert Stefon on Saturday Night Live.  We buy Bill Hader’s performances whether his character is smooth or awkward, gay or straight, handsome or dorky.  Yes, he’s good-looking, but average-person good-looking, not Hollywood-good-looking.  We see him, we are charmed by him, and it’s realistic that we could meet him in real life.  Bill Hader is hopefully just the first of many actors who will will charm audiences with actual talent rather than celebrity-hotness and mediocre talent (i.e.: Channing Tatum).

Amy Schumer, similarly, brought the talent, and, similarly, looks different and acts different than Hollywood stars.  She’s blunt and progressive.  She looks good without being stick-thin.  She relies on humor more than anything else to get attention.  She’s an actress a normal person can actually relate to, which is pretty amazing.  She has not been around as much as her love interest, Hader, and so far she is not quite the chameleon he is (In Inside Amy Schumer, all of her characters are named “Amy” and all of them seem more like versions of herself than completely different personalties)- but that’s ok!  We don’t need her to be a chameleon!  We need her to be herself: funny, talented, and darkly comic about serious issues (see: her Friday Night Lights parody about rape.)

And, of course, both Hader’s and Schumer’s backgrounds in sketch-comedy gave Trainwreck a great edge over other rom coms.  They both kill at comedic timing, at delivering lines, and at getting the laughs.  Their onscreen chemistry is both perfect and believable.  The sketch-comedy background was especially important to Trainwreck because one of the areas the film thrived in was casual, seemingly-improvised conversation.  Bill Hader and LeBron James have a three minute conversation about Cleveland at lunch, and maybe it doesn’t technically move the plot forward (actually, technically it’s pointless), but it’s still funny.  Trainwreck was less of a movie than it was a movie sprinkled with spontaneous sketches, which which was one of its strongpoints.  That allowed the actors to use their background, their talents, and their knack at making banter both realistic and brilliant.  Seeing this film in the theatre, I would notice the audience erupting in laughter in one moment and then missing out on the jokes immediately after the former.  There was a constant stream of jokes, and almost all of them were equally funny.

A few final thoughts on this movie: First of all, Judd Apatow knows how to create something fresh out of a trite idea (example: how Freaks and Geeks transcended the “angsty high school years” genre of television, how Forgetting Sarah Marshall showed the point of view of both halves of the couple in a break-up movie, and how The Five Year Engagement trumped most movies about weddings).   Secondly, LeBron James is such a good comedic actor for an athlete that it’s ridiculous.  Every commercial for an athlete-endorse product (I’m looking at you, Shaq and Gold Bond) is basically scientific evidence that athletes should remain on the court, not behind the camera, but James’ actually pulls it off.  His onscreen bromance with Hader is beautiful.  Finally, the writing makes fun of the corny rom com drama in several instances.  Normally, the audience is the one rolling their eyes at an onscreen couple; in this case, Schumer herself (in a voiceover) rolls her eyes at the couple-y couple which she is part of.  It’s a relief to see a rom com that is aware of its own corny, cliches.


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