“Lila & Eve”;  “Train Wreck”


            One's too violent, the other is too raunchy to recommend for genteel church audiences.  But both have their compelling moments.

            Lila (Viola Davis) is a single Mom with two sons who works hard, but lives in a tough part of town.  So tough, in fact, that drug deals are going down at the corner grocery all the time.  She tries to tell her boys to be safe, to study and make good grades and go to college, and the older one, Stephon (Aml Ameen), is graduating from high school and seemingly on his way up and out, when tragedy strikes:  he happens to be walking by that corner grocery, talking on the phone, when he's killed in a drive-by shooting.

            Lila is beyond devastated.  And yet she knows she has to try to hold it together for her younger son, who still needs her.  The police are no help.  They say they need a clue, and Lila thinks they have no clue, all right.  She tries one of those support groups, Mothers whose sons were murdered, but she's just not ready for that brand of insipid “one day at a time” encouragement, until she meets somebody there, Eve (Jennifer Lopez), who seems just as angry as she is, and just as frustrated, so she tries connecting with her.  Eve is willing to spend time with Lila outside the group, at first doing some re-decorating to brighten things up in the dilapidated house.  Then, as the police continually come up with nothing, Eve encourages Lila to go out and try to find some information on her own.  This is dangerous territory, of course, and leads down a potentially vigilante path that no one can officially endorse, but everybody can empathize. 

            Viola Davis is riveting in this role, and Lopez is just strong enough to be a good foil.  Though their characters are far from sympathetic, their performances are strong.  It's just that the movie is probably too intense and edgy for many gentle churchgoers.

            “Train Wreck” is directed by Judd Apatow, which means we're going to get raunch humor.  We're also going to hear a lot of scatalogical language, and watch sexual situations that are more humorously awkward than sincere or erotic.  At the very least, we're laughing at ourselves at every turn, though at times the humor seems more than a bit forced.

            Amy (Amy Schumer, who also wrote the screenplay) is a 30-something career woman who enjoys a pretty good job as a writer for an edgy pop culture magazine in New York City.  Her boss (Tilda Swinton) is brash and domineering but tolerable, her social life is filled with long-time girlfriends, interspersed with one-night stands involving guys she hardly knows, or even likes.  Her sort-of boyfriend, a muscle-bound musclehead, bores her, and her goody-goody sister (Brie Larson) annoys her, especially since she's always concentrating her emotional attention on her husband and his son, which Amy selfishly resents.  Amy's parents divorced a long time ago; her Mom's gone, and her Dad, a miserable old drunk, now has M.S., and lives in one of those assisted-living places that he hates, but he also has no choice.  So there's not much pleasant in her life, which she compensates for by overindulging in drink, weed, and junk food.  And then she meets Mr. Right, Aaron (Bill Hader), a sports orthopedist, and she hardlly even knows how to act.  And she almost messes it up by expecting it to fail.

            Lots of cameos by famous actors, and other random celebrities.  Lots of not-so-funny poignant family dynamics.  But in the end, “Train Wreck” is really about the unlikely romance between this emotional “train wreck” of a woman with few social filters, and her scared-to-stick-his-neck-out physician boyfriend.  Everyone on the screen roots for them, and in the end, so do we.  Because even those of us who enjoy some raunchy humor occasionally can also be romanticists at heart.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas