On her popular cable sketch show, Amy Schumer has made a name for herself as a comedic daredevil who goes full-throttle bawdy and drops truth bombs that make us think. But is she capable of carrying a big-screen feature film?
The answer is an emphatic “yes.” In the rollicking, hysterically funny Trainwreck, a film she wrote and stars in, Schumer is an absolute joy to behold.
Directed by Judd Apatow, Trainwreck is a defiantly offbeat romantic comedy that has Schumer playing a role usually associated with dudes. She’s a trash-talking, booze-guzzling magazine writer (also named Amy) with major intimacy issues. Never one to avoid a one-night stand, she samples men like finger food and makes no apologies for it.
Early on in the film, we learn that this is a game plan picked up from her divorced father (Colin Quinn), who routinely preached to his kids that “monogamy isn’t realistic.” While her sister (Brie Larson) rejected this lesson to land in a stable, if unadventurous, marriage, Amy continues to make many a walk of shame. Meanwhile, Pops, all bitter and grumpy, now has advanced multiple sclerosis.
Amy would have you believe that she’s doing just fine with her uninhibited lifestyle, but truth be told, she’s headed off the rails. Complications ensue when her ice queen of an editor (a barely recognizable Tilda Swinton) assigns her to do a story on a doctor named Aaron Conners (an awkwardly charming Bill Hader) who caters to professional athletes like LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire and has a thing for Billy Joel tunes.
In the process of doing the piece, Amy discovers — much to her horror — that she has found a good, softhearted guy for whom she has actual feelings. Uh oh. Now what?
Trainwreck is full of goofy moments to savor, whether it’s Amy struggling to have fulfilling sex with a super-buff, self-absorbed gym rat (John Cena), or a scene in which she tries to trick Aaron into believing that she knows something about sports teams (the Orlando Bloom?). It’s a full-on head rush of hilarity.
But there are also shards of bruised emotion. Apparently, the film is a deeply personal one for Schumer, who shares some traits with the lead character: She’s a child of divorce whose father has MS, and she bravely confronted some of her own demons during the writing process. It’s obvious she understands love and pain and knows how to get her points across. In one touching scene, Schumer digs deep to prove that she possesses enough acting chops to induce tears as well as laughs.
And Apatow is there to lend a guiding hand. He is known for films pegged to regressive man-child characters and has been accused in some corners of underserving his female characters. But we should point out that, in recent years, he produced Bridesmaids and has helped to channel Lena Dunham’s voice on HBO’s Girls. He does the same here with Schumer, deftly balancing screwball humor with heart. Midway through the film, you pretty much know where he’s taking us, but it’s a real joy getting there.
It’s also worth noting that Trainwreck is blessed with a deep bench. So often this type of film fills its roster out with juiceless stock roles, but Apatow gets terrific — and surprising — performances from everyone involved, including James, who steals scenes as easily as he fills up a stat sheet.
The planet’s best basketball player may not have been able to vanquish the Warriors in the NBA Finals, but as an actor, he definitely has got game.
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, John Cena, Tilda Swinton, LeBron James.
Director: Judd Apatow.
Screenwriter: Amy Schumer.
A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 122 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual content, nudity, drug use. Playing at area theaters.