Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck was not bad, but it was far tamer than it should have been. Reviewers have noted that it manages to be smarter than your average rom-com while getting only a fraction of Schumer’s usual subversive wit. Director Judd Apatow bogs it down with his highly conventional morality, preventing Trainwreck from going full Schumer. As David Edelstein writes, “It’s too bad Schumer is playing a familiar character…the adult child…who must learn that true happiness comes only by sobering up and embracing family values. In other words, it’s that damn Judd Apatow template.”
Trainwreck shines when Schumer is allowed to Schumer the hell out of her material: It winks at traditional gender roles, casts its cameos well (Lebron James, John Cena, Matthew Broderick, Daniel Radcliffe), and spoofs sex wryly (“Can’t we just sleep in a realistic position?” she says to Bill Hader’s character as he tries to spoon with her). It stumbles rote in its second act, as Amy tries to convince both her sister and the audience that she is “broken” and jealous of her traditional marriage and family. It feels like a weak-livered cop-out.
Schumer’s going to have options for her next project. Here are some directors whose sensibilities would better complement her singular talents.
1. Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Lord and Miller have established themselves as the clown auteurs of comedies that are fresh, unexpected, and full of heart. In 21 Jump Street (and even in its astonishingly good sequel, 22 Jump Street), they showed they weren’t afraid to invert the usual buddy cop-roles, as the schlubby guy gets to hang with the popular crowd while the tough guy is ostracized with the art-dweebs. They would’ve been more at ease, I think, with Trainwreck starring a woman afraid of commitment and a man who analyzes the details over brunch with his girlfriends (in this case, James). Unlike Apatow, Miller and Lord would help Schumer maintain the first act’s ambiance and transition into heart without flubbing the landing:
2. Lucia Aniello
Trainwreck is funniest when Schumer gets to do her thing — and if you’ve listened to her stand-up, you can probably guess what that is. Trainwreck has some of the funniest sex scenes to appear onscreen in recent years. Particular standouts are ones with John Cena and another with a scene-stealing Ezra Miller. Even in more serious scenes with Bill Hader, there are excellent facial expressions and reaction shots. And whenever things get a little weird, the punchline isn’t the weirdness itself, but instead it’s Schumer’s reaction. Schumer knows that humor is often found in small interactions:
Aniello may not be a big name, but she directed several Broad City episodes, including the pegging one, which is some of the best and funniest handling of sex on TV, and she clearly let Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer stick to their own voices.
3. Ryan McFaul
McFaul isn’t a household name like Apatow, at least not yet. But he is the genius behind all of Schumer’s smartest sketches, including the thinkpiece-launching “12 Angry Men,” the first-world problems entitled white girl skewering “Herpes Scare,” the scathing yet hilarious Hollywood sexism critique, “Last Fuckable Day,” the rape culture sendup “Football Town Nights,” the on-point boy band culture annihilating “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup,” and many more. In a perfect world, Schumer could continue working with McFaul on the big screen and keep doing the insightful, unpredictable, and untamed work she’s been doing.
The person who did this sketch shouldn’t have to do a conventional (if funny) rom com: