Amy Schumer has had one hell of a come up on the comedy scene. Her uncompromising and bitingly ribald humor helped her place high on stand-up reality shows (Last Comic Standing, Reality Bites Back) and eventually warranted her various specials and even her own show on Comedy Central, which is currently one of the best things on TV. Taking sketches like her Call Of Duty session gone wrong and the most overt boy band song ever into consideration, my ears perked up when I found out that Schumer would be both writing and starring in the feature comedy Trainwreck. Even with soft-hearted frat boy extraordinaire Judd Apatow in the director’s chair, I was still excited to laugh my ass off at more sexy mid-life trials and tribulations with Amy Schumer’s spin. When Trainwreck comes together, it’s a funny and somewhat affecting Generation X parable, but Apatow’s overwhelming directorial style almost completely consumes Schumer’s devil-may-care comedy, and coupled with a dragging third act, this freight is fastened to some well-worn rails.
The premise of the movie is promising enough. Amy (Schumer, and yes, her name in the movie is Amy) is a magazine writer in her early 30s content to live the swingin’ single life, sleeping with whatever dudes she wants and grasping onto the notion that “monogamy isn’t realistic”, thanks to her racist coot of a father. Amy’s distant to the point of obliviousness when it comes to anyone’s feelings, whether it be her kinda-sorta boyfriend (John Cena’s a *riot*), her green intern at the office (Ezra Miller), or her sister (Brie Larson) and her dorky husband (Mike Birbiglia). All of that starts to change when her editor boss (a rare comedic role for Tilda Swinton) assigns her to profile Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), a sports physician who turns out to be the nicest guy she’s ever met and who might be enough to convince her that the single life isn’t as lethal as she may have thought.
Ever since he first burst onto the movie scene with The 40 Year-Old Virgin back in 2005, Judd Apatow’s movies have settled into a familiar rhythm; a thirty-something person existing within a sexual niche (virginity, single life, pushing 40) stumbling through their life before coming across another person or epiphany representative of traditional values that convince them that settling down is the best idea; Trainwreck is absolutely no exception to this rule, which is either great or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it.
On the one hand, if you’re a massive Apatow fan with your Freaks and Geeks DVD box set sitting on your nightstand, then you already know what you’re getting yourself into and will enjoy yourself. On the other, Amy Schumer’s other comedy couldn’t be farther from that template, yet her screenplay (she wrote the film, by the way) is covered in Apatow’s fingerprints, especially a hokey “maybe it’ll all work out” ending that Schumer even admitted was tacked on by Apatow. Watching Amy mug her way through some of the fluffy traditional rom-com fluff feels like she had to compromise a lot of her style, and that leads to a forced sort of sweetness that doesn’t feel as authentic as it should, especially when the third act drags itself past the half-hour mark. Hearing someone walk out of the movie saying “I didn’t want it to end” was where I drew the line.
Schumer’s on the ball when it comes to sexism, but her relationship with race has caused her a little controversy lately, causing one writer to remark that she has a “blind spot” for race. In most cases, I wouldn’t hold it against her, but watching her and Hader awkwardly bumble their way through a joke about Amy not having Black friends and showing a picture of a waiter serving her water doesn’t gel like I’m sure she wanted it to. It’s supposed to emphasize the crude nature of her character, but it’s…just not funny; and Method Man showing up as a stereotypical Jamaican nurse comes across more as something Schumer threw in to pad for time.
Even though Apatow’s directorial hand can be all-consuming, the cast sells the hell out of their roles. Schumer scooped up a cast who aren’t known for comedic roles and wrings the best out of them. Swinton, who many will know as The White Queen from The Chronicles of Narnia series, chews the scenery as the boss from hell; cameos from sports figures like Cena and Amar’e Stoudemire are fun dressing downs; but LeBron James bulldozes through this movie as the catty protective best friend version of himself. Haider holds his own as the straight man of the movie, playing off of LeBron and Amy’s more exaggerated personalities.
As should be expected from the pedigree involved, Schumer is this movie’s guiding light. Even though she’s working within someone else’s parameters, she brings energy and personality to a fairly unlikeable character that you can’t help but root for her. Even so, fans expecting an insurrection the likes of Inside Amy Schumer will be a little disappointed that she’s roped into someone else’s style a bit, but Trainwreck is still one of the funniest comedies of the year so far.