Longtime fans of Amy Schumer’s raucous, sexual slash-and-burn standup routines or her three seasons blowing minds on the sketch show hit Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer should feel right in the pocket seeing Trainwreck. Although Judd Apatow (This Is Forty, Knocked Up) directed the romantic sex comedy, Schumer not only wrote and stars in it, making one hell of a big screen starring debut, but also, most of the movie’s supporting cast members turn up regularly on her TV show including Mike Birbiglia, Dave Hanson, Jon Glaser, and more. Many of the film’s scenes and comic setups play out pretty much the way they do on her show, too – filthy, funny, and merrily subversive when it comes to sex and gender issues. Not complaining, mind you, but you mind go in hoping for deeper, longer, and uncut.
In Trainwreck, Amy plays “Amy,” not surprisingly considering how personal Schumer likes to play her comedy, a Manhattan men’s magazine writer-editor who digs pot, casual sex, good booze, and an absence of emotional commitment. She’s also unapologetically self-centered and not always nice. Some of those qualities are inheritances from her father bed-hopping likable a-hole of a father (Colin Quinn) who, in a funny/sad opening flashback, tells the 9-year-old Amy (Devin Fabry) and her five-year-old sister (Carla Oudin) that “monogamy is not realistic,” which is his excuse for why he is divorcing their mother. Amy’s all grown up sister (Brie Larson, good as always) enjoys happy domesticity with Tom (Mike Birbiglia) and her stepson (Evan Brinkman), she isn’t impressed by Amy’s life choices; meanwhile, Amy is repulsed by marriage, kids, and guys in daddy sweaters. Her perspective shifts when her hard as nails editor (Tilda Swinton, excellent) assigns the sport-hating Amy to write a profile on a nice, altruistic, successful celebrity sports doctor (Bill Hader, in a warm, terrific performance). They click, hang together, sleep together, and things get funnier and more complicated – just not as cuttingly as in Schumer’s best TV work, in which she never steps back from picking at the scabs of her pain, anger, and confusion. The first half of Trainwreck clicks along in truly smart and funny style, though.
The script has lots of fun playing with all the tropes of romantic comedy, and with a fully confident, hilarious, and completely relatable Schumer and the unsung Hader playing beautifully off each other. But even with that high level of competition, LeBron James, playing Hader’s pal and Downtown Abbey-loving romantic confidante, is a charismatic, hilarious scene-grabber. His and Hader’s scenes together are so good, their back and forth so nimble and natural, you don’t want them to end.
In classic Apatow fashion, the last third of the movie drags, though, sagging under the weight of too many extraneous characters and flabby scenes – like a movie within a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei that doesn’t work at all. Still, Trainwreck is a fresh, tangy, poignant take on an all-but-dead movie genre. The laughs come so hard and fast that you may need to watch it twice to catch them all. And that’s a good thing because the way we see it, the more exposure to Schumer’s canny, daring brilliance, the better.
Amy Schumer Takes the Playmate Questionnaire