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Review: 'Trainwreck' is filthy and funny

PRESTON JONES
YorkDispatch

"Trainwreck" is anything but.

By giving her raunchy romantic comedy something so many genre entries lack — a vivacious, relatable personality — star and screenwriter Amy Schumer makes a memorable cinematic debut, deftly transitioning from her acclaimed, zeitgeist-dominating Comedy Central TV series to the silver screen.

Schumer stars as Amy Townsend, a magazine writer whose social life could charitably be described as chaotic.

Fond of drinking to excess and embarking on a series of sloppy one-night stands, slipping out as soon as she possibly can — all this despite a wobbly relationship with Steven (a woefully miscast John Cena) — Amy is barely holding it together.

It's only when Amy takes a chance assignment from her domineering editor Dianna (a glammed-up Tilda Swinton), reporting a story on sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), that she finds herself in unfamiliar (read: stable) territory.

"Trainwreck" is a tart blend of frank sexuality and domestic drama, giving audiences something they rarely see at the movies: a woman unapologetic about wanting sex.

Flash point: In a cultural moment where women and sexuality are a flash point — whether it's Bill Cosby's alleged indiscretions or the harrowing assault allegations of the Runaways' Jackie Fuchs — it's striking to see Schumer create a character unapologetic about hooking up and moving on.

There's a sense of reclamation — too often in Hollywood, such a role is almost exclusively male — particularly since Amy isn't shunned or chastised by any of her friends or family.

Her behavior, however reckless or selfish, is simply considered part of who she is.

But Schumer also takes care to round out this self-described "broken" person as someone whose family dynamics are particularly fraught: Amy's sister Kim (Brie Larson) butts heads with her over the care of their multiple sclerosis-afflicted father, Gordon (a terrific Colin Quinn).

Despite its sharper moments, "Trainwreck" does follow the well-worn rom-com formula, complete with splashy climax involving a dance routine inside Madison Square Garden set to Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl." Even so, the sap has a distinct bite to it.

Apatow: "Trainwreck" is directed by Judd Apatow, who has guided several funny females into high profile projects over the last decade (he oversaw the smash hit "Bridesmaids," directed Katherine Heigl in "Knocked Up" and helped Lena Dunham launch the HBO series "Girls," among others).

His is an invisible hand here — although "Trainwreck," like so many Apatow films, could stand to lose 15-20 minutes from its run time — allowing Schumer's sensitive yet searingly funny work take center stage.

Schumer's performance is laudable and even moving at times, and she's well matched with Hader, who brings gentle warmth to his mostly straight-man role.

"Trainwreck" is populated with a host of funny faces and surprise cameos — Tony Romo turns up, and "Saturday Night Live's" Leslie Jones gets a gut-busting moment late in the film — but none are as surprising or as funny as basketball superstar LeBron James. (Yes, you read that sentence correctly.)

James displays a heretofore hidden knack for comedy, easily slipping into the role of Dr. Conners' best friend, a man as eager to watch the latest episode of "Downton Abbey" as he is to dunk a basketball.

Schumer and her collaborators are telling a very familiar tale with "Trainwreck," but it's the way she approaches such tired material that makes this funny, filthy film stand apart.

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'TRAINWRECK'

4 out of 5 stars

Director: Judd Apatow

Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, LeBron James

Rating: R (strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use)

Run time: 125 min.