Trainwreck (Judd Apatow, 2015)
If you don’t know the name Amy Schumer by now, it’s time to crawl out from under the rock you’ve been living under and rejoin the ranks of society. Following in the footsteps of Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, and Mindy Kaling, Schumer is the latest supergirl of smart female-driven comedy and the latest girl crush of many. Though her rise to the top has seemingly happened overnight, Schumer started hitting the stand-up comedic circuit over ten years ago, before creating her popular sketch show Inside Amy Schumer in 2012. Trainwreck marks her first leading film role as well as her first screenplay and is based loosely on her own experiences.
Directed by Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, This is 40), Trainwreck is a breath of fresh air in the romantic comedy genre. Here there is no devilishly charming womaniser to curb his ways for the manic pixie dream girl. Instead roles are flipped, with Amy (Schumer’s character) doing the bed-hopping and shirking monogamy, while the men are sensitive souls, eager to catch up on Downton Abbey and to make their relationships official. The set-up is a complete 180 from one of Schumer’s best skits, One Night Stand, and is just as hilarious. Amy isn’t keen on staying the night after her night of passion with sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader) but before long she’s turned into one half of the type of cute couple that she used to despise. At the same time she manages a demanding job for a men’s magazine that rivals Zoo Weekly in the douche stakes (though has mostly female writers), visits her ailing father (Colin Quinn) in his nursing home, and navigates a complicated relationship with her younger, married sister (Brie Larson).
Similar in some ways to Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath of Girls, Amy is a feminist anti-hero. She is unapologetic in her honesty, veering into territory that women are expected to stay away from. A joke about used tampons is probably the best in the whole film, although judging from audience reactions male viewers may be less likely to agree. Female viewers will likely relish Schumer’s refusal to conform to expectations about remaining a ‘lady’ at all times (rather than pretending women never bleed, fart, or poop), and a scene where a little barf escapes Amy’s mouth only endears her to us further. Amy is also happy to dish out insults where she sees fit, and to tell it exactly how it is. And it’s magnificent.
Unsurprisingly, given her history in stand-up, Schumer’s delivery is spot on. In some instances the jokes came so fast that it was hard to keep up over the howls of laughter in the audience. As Amy’s love interest, Bill Hader is convincingly lovely, however he exists here more to be adorable rather than funny. As Amy’s colleagues, Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognisable as the glam bitch editor hiding under a fake tan, Ezra Miller redeems himself (after Madame Bovary) by demonstrating his comedic chops, and Vanessa Bayer is delightful as a sidekick who could well bag a leading role in the future Ellie Kemper-style. While the role of Amy’s sister could have been a bore in less experienced shoes, the wonderful Brie Larson radiates in every scene she’s in. The highlight, however, is LeBron James (playing himself) as pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect in an elite athlete.
While it may be too soon to name Trainwreck the comedy of the year, it certainly contains its fair share of laugh-out-loud moments, and contains a final scene that should make even the most jaded cynic smile. For a first effort, Schumer does a phenomenal job in up-ending the usual gendered tropes of the genre to offer up something fresh and entertaining. Here’s hoping she continues to drop those truth bombs like they’re hot, and maybe run for presidency while she’s at it.
This review was first published at Film Blerg