Funny, Filthy 'Trainwreck' Stays on the Right Track
Amy Schumer's star will only rise with the release of her new Judd Apatow rom-com.
Amy Schumer, who wields honesty the way a butcher chops meat, that is, in a sharp, downward motion that cuts to the bone, makes her case for movie stardom in Trainwreck. She's just about there as a character named Amy who has a sister and father with the same names as her real family. Schumer parlays the blunt sexuality of her stand-up with the goofball characters of her Inside Amy Schumer show on Comedy Central into another Amy surrogate. She's working in the realm of comic tradition, staying true to the honesty that got her here while attempting to create an actual story. It works surprisingly well, sloppy ending aside.
Beginning in flashback, Trainwreck explains why elder Amy is a commitment-phobe: "Imagine having to play with the same doll your entire life." Her father (Colin Quinn) explains his mantra to his two daughters, Amy and Kim, "Monogamy isn't realistic." So the set-up is established. Schumer, who also wrote the film, plants herself firmly in the dude role. She sleeps with whomever she wants and doesn't feel bad about it (the IMDb page for the film is full of actors playing "One-Night Stand Guy"). She's not the first woman to flip our expectations in this way.
Adult Amy is a writer at a Maxim-style magazine and is tasked with interviewing a renowned sports physician, Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), who turns out to be the perfect guy. Amy resists his straightforward approach ("We like each other and should be a couple") at first before succumbing. Schumer and Hader have easy chemistry. Credit to the casting department for giving the star another comic to play off. This movie wouldn't work otherwise. I won't ruin the film's many surprises, but it's full of star cameos and cutting one-liners while managing to stay believable. The ending can be seen a mile away, but it's easy to forgive because it's sweet and endearing.
Director Judd Apatow, who produced Bridemaids and ushered Lena Dunham and friends into our living rooms Sunday nights on Girls, seems intent on leveling the playing field for women in comedy. It's time someone male did. Genius comic minds like Sarah Silverman have never gotten the recognition they deserve. Hollywood has always been an old white guy's club and that will change. As one generation gives way to the next, the old Hollywood standard will look more ridiculous by the year.
But let's not go overboard. Reveling in 2015 like it's some kind of golden age for women in comedy is besides the point and silly. Everyone is so quick to live in nostalgia, it's easy to take the present for granted. It's best to simply relax and enjoy comics like Schumer for what they are: smart and witty. Gender shouldn't enter into it.
Trainwreck allows Schumer to empty the clip, so to speak. Her script is filthy with just the right amount of heart to make a real film. This is the first movie Apatow's directed he hasn't written, and he's a natural for the material. It feels like his. And that's a credit to Schumer, who proves much more polished than someone like Dunham (although not as creative). Trainwreck is a garden variety rom-com at its heart: The commitment-phobe gets rehabilitated through the power of love. It's the details that make it special.
Trainwreck is a comics' film. The supporting cast is terrific, led by Hader in virtual straight man mode. He's charming and likable, and a surprisingly authentic romanic lead. Kim is played by sweet Brie Larson as an adult and she provides the family counterpoint to Amy's bachelorette lifestyle. Tilda Swinton pops up like a great white shark as Amy's ruthless boss; Vanessa Bayer is her work cohort; Dave Attell is wicked as a homeless guy outside Amy's apartment; and LeBron James is kind of great as Hader's best buddy who wants to watch Downton Abbey with him. They even play some ball in a great scene. Trainwreck is full of great scenes. It's a relieving return to form for Apatow after the mid-numbing This is 40, and a star-making film for Schumer. Expect to see much more of her in the near future.