Rob Edelman: Best Of The Summer
It’s been my experience this summer that genuinely challenging or just-plain enjoyable newly-released films have been pretty scarce. There are exceptions here. Among them are LOVE & MERCY, MISTRESS AMERICA, and THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL. Still, as the season nears its end, one must wait in anticipation for the fall releases that either premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this spring or momentarily will be debuting at the Toronto, Venice, and Telluride festivals.
However, each summer, a high-quality film that is destined for Oscar consideration does occasionally debut. Two years ago, it was Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE. Last year, it was Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD. While TRAINWRECK, directed by Judd Apatow, scripted by and starring Amy Schumer, and featuring what truly is a once-in-a-lifetime cast, will not be earning Oscars, it is a tremendously crafty and entertaining rom.com-- and it gets my vote for the summer’s very best film.
Schumer stars as Amy, a young Manhattan magazine writer who might easily be a character straight out of Lena Dunham’s GIRLS. Amy is living her life as she sees fit. She is attempting to build a career. She is savoring a range of sexual liaisons, a number of which she initiates, and she is dealing with complex familial connections with her married sister and her widowed father, who has just entered an assisted living facility. But the story’s focus is on Amy’s sex life, and her evolving relationship with a guy who is more than one-night-stand material: a doctor, played by Bill Hader, who specializes in sports medicine.
TRAINWRECK features a hand-picked cast, including Hader, in what may be his most substantial screen role to date, as well as (in parts both small and large) Matthew Broderick, Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Evert, Marv Albert, Colin Quinn, Vanessa Bayer, and Tilda Swinton. On the one hand, there are showcase parts for Brie Larson and Ezra Miller, two extremely talented younger actors who deserved to be better-known. On the other, there is the presence of one-hundred-year-old Norman Lloyd, who before most of us were born was working with Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock.
But Amy Schumer’s front-and-center onscreen presence is what makes the film work. Her sense of comedy is of the Sarah Silverman variety and, in its best moments-- and there are quite a few-- TRAINWRECK is laugh-out-loud funny. Plus, for me, one sequence is an instant classic. In it, Hader goes one-on-one on a basketball court with LeBron James. Yet at the same time, TRAINWRECK does have its serious side as it insightfully explores the nuances of father-daughter relationships, sister-sister relationships, and the fear of acknowledging genuine romantic feelings.
Finally, as a side note: By coincidence, on the same night that I saw TRAINWRECK, a gunman shot and killed two women and wounded nine individuals during a screening in a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater. The film being shown was TRAINWRECK-- and this earns what otherwise is a highly praiseworthy film a gloomy historical footnote.
Rob Edelman has written several books on film, television, and baseball, and was a longtime Contributing Editor of Leonard Maltin’s annual Movie Guide. He teaches film history at the University at Albany.
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