Amy Schumer is the “it” comedian of 2015. Her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer has become a huge hit with an audience ready for a different take on female friendships, sexual politics and middle-class self-entitlement. If you haven’t seen the series, ignore my non-comedic description (I studied political science in the 1980s) and catch it on your subscriber service. That over-used term “meteoric” accurately describes Schumer’s career trajectory for the past 18 months. Her first feature film (she writes and stars) could have not come at a better time for the New York stand up.
TRAINWRECK is aimed at the mainstream, rather than the Comedy Central fans. Schumer has fashioned a rom-com in order to court this audience. She plays a version of herself also called Amy, who works at a women’s magazine (the go-to rom-com occupation) and she is having the time of her life as a single woman in New York City. She has a malcontent father who has MS (Colin Quinn) and a younger sister (Brie Larson) living a happily married existence with a slightly odd husband (Mike Birbiglia) and a slightly odd son. Her various dates are one time things and even her most regular partner; the muscle-bound Steven (John Cena) is not actually her boyfriend. The last thing Amy is looking for is a stable relationship.
Cue meeting stable guy, orthopaedic surgeon to the stars, Aaron (Bill Hader). Amy has to profile the doc and could not be less interested. His clients are elite athletes and she has no knowledge of sports. Aaron is unimpressed by the low level of research Amy has done in preparation to their initial meeting. Eventually the two go on a date that goes surprisingly well. When Aaron calls for a second date, Amy has no idea what to do. All her instincts tell her that the last thing she wants is to have a boyfriend or be a girlfriend. She has a fear of monogamy instilled in her by her parents’ rocky relationship.
The broad strokes of the Amy and Aaron plot will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen a rom-com, but the particulars are what make TRAINWRECK a refreshing entry to the genre. Amy’s relationship with her father is both moving and honest. Gordon is a very hard man to like. He is a bitter, depressive character with a lethal sense of humour, but we understand why she loves him even though he isn’t much of a parent. Aaron’s friendship with his client LeBron James (as enacted by LeBron James) is nicely done and plays brilliantly with the NBA star’s massive celebrity.
Judd Apatow is the director. He has shepherded many a comedic project as producer, but he tends to write what he directs, so this outing is somewhat different for him. TRAINWRECK’s deep bench of comedians in bit parts is the combination of Apatow and Schumer’s connections. The movie may disappoint some of Inside Amy Schumer fans because the idea that Amy has to find a guy, seems at odds with her sketch comedy. What Schumer the writer has tried to do, is talk about Amy’s insecurity and problems with intimacy, while not losing the sex positive attitude that goes right back to her stand up comedy.
TRAINWRECK is a rom-com with heart and a filthy sense of humour. It clocks in at an Apatow-approved 125 minutes. (8/10)