Given the runaway success of her transgressive TV show, it was only a matter of time before Amy Schumer took on the leading role in a movie. She couldn’t have picked a part better suited to her unique blend of social-minded wit and gender commentary than Trainwreck, the new comedy from director Judd Apatow. Of course, it helps that Schumer wrote the screenplay for the film herself.
Schumer plays Amy, an Amy Schumer-like 30-something living the single life in New York. As the movie’s title implies, Amy is a bit of a disaster, her nights a blurred parade of alcoholic excess and one-night stands. But that all changes when she meets a dashing sports doctor (Bill Hader) who makes her consider giving up her party-girl ways.
Amy’s substance abuse and intimacy issues are traced in bold lines back to her philandering father (Colin Quinn), now a widower suffering from MS in an expensive retirement home. Amy’s relationships with her father and sister (an understated Brie Larson) are mined for dramatic effect — especially in the film’s weepy third act — but for the most part, the charming cast manages to keep things light.
It helps that the actors have such a hilarious script to work from. Just about every scene in Schumer’s script has one huge laugh, and most scenes have several. Apatow wisely keeps his direction as fleet and unobtrusive as possible, letting Schumer’s dialog and the performances speak for themselves.
The usual trappings of an Apatow joint are still there, though. There’s the endless parade of comedians in supporting roles (Dave Attell, Jon Glaser, Mike Birbiglia, Randall Park, and more), most of them given their own needless subplot. Like This is 40, Funny People, and Knocked Up, the movie is about half an hour too long. And while LeBron James manages to impress in a supporting role, there are a few too many flashy cameos by celebrities playing themselves.
Trainwreck fancies itself a dramedy, but it’s a rom-com at heart, and it becomes increasingly predictable as it adheres to that genre’s formulas. (Skip to the last paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers.) Of course Schumer and Hader will break up at the end of the second act (courtesy of a forced, one-sided argument that’s devoid of nuance and cements Hader’s character as one-note decent dude). Of course that will result in Schumer rushing to find him and make an extravagant public apology/speech at the film’s end. And of course there’s no quicker cure for alcoholism than a montage of a lead character throwing out her bottles.
There’s also an above-average amount of white privilege at work in Trainwreck. Black people mostly exist on the periphery to give emotional support and advice to the pasty romantic leads. In a scene unfortunately reminiscent of Sex and the City, Schumer first makes amends to Hader by writing an article about him for Vanity Fair. She then takes over Madison Square Garden and enlists the Knicks cheerleaders as her backup dancers. So, you know, standard every-day relationship stuff.
Trainwreck has its share of flaws, yet they’re all forgivable thanks to Schumer’s charming performance. Whether she’s engaging in increasingly goofy sexual encounters or delivering a tearful eulogy, Schumer nails every scene. She may be playing close to type, but with a persona so winning, clever, and suited to our times, who can blame her?
Trainwreck opens in San Diego on Friday, July 17.