Amy Schumer is the latest it girl of comedy, having gone from being one of the best stand ups currently working to having one of Comedy Central’s most talked about television shows. Inside Amy Schumer is bold and provactive, taking on a lot of risque subjects with a wit and charm that few comedians have these days. Trainwreck, her first starring role in a movie, has all the potential to be a breakout hit but manages to never find the sort of comedy groove the film’s setup would dictate it has.
Amy (Schumer) is a magazine writer living in New York City with the sort of lifestyle glamorized by Sex and the City. She has a steady boyfriend of sorts (John Cena) but lives her life working, drinking too much and screwing pretty much any guy she can. Years ago her father (Colin Quinn) convinced her of the evils of monogamy and now she embraces it with a sad zeal. And then she meets a guy who winds up changing everything for her in a Doctor (Bill Hader) who helps to change her alcohol and drug fueled hedonistic lifestyle.
On the surface this feels like the perfect vehicle for Schumer. She wrote the film, as well, and the film isn’t original in any real way as it takes the romantic comedy conceit of a womanizing Lothario and just switches genders. This is a female version of Alfie, nothing more, as Schumer has just done a gender swap on the usual “womanizer finds true love” angle that has been made for decades. It’s similar to how The To Do List took the teenage sex comedy angle of a teenage boy losing his virginity and just gender swapped it onto a teenage girl. This feels new and fresh, because it’s a woman embracing her sexuality in the same sort of crude and vulgar way a guy would in a romantic comedy that’s R-rated for vulgarity, but it really isn’t.
It’s perfectly tailored for Schumer, though, and the cousin of U.S Senator Chuck Schumer has designed a great part for herself. For all the film does to embrace the Sex and the City lifestyle of being a single woman in New York the film doesn’t show how great it is. It takes a mental and physical toll and Amy is a damaged woman. It’s a bold choice for her first starring role, as Amy drowns herself in alcohol and strange men, and she’s game for the part. She also avoids the writer’s trap of giving her character the best lines, et al. Amy is a flawed woman and Schumer the writer, and Judd Apatow the director, doesn’t have a problem showing that she isn’t the best person in the world. It’s rare and significant as there’s a vulnerability she’s giving as an actress in a part that could’ve been tailored to make more appealing. She’s not a party girl who finds love; she’s someone with a clear substance abuse issue that avoids it at all costs.
That’s the interesting part of the film and the one the film touches on too few times. This feels like a good character study about a woman with issues trying to finally come to grips with them, like Michael Caine in Alfie, and the romantic comedy aspect thrown in gives it a good base. If you didn’t know better you’d think this is a film being told by Amy at an Alcoholic’s Anonymous type of meeting, as she discusses her sobriety, as opposed to the film’s forced happy ending.
And that becomes a huge a problem, the romantic comedy architecture the film is based on. This is a great character study film, a more serious and funnier version of The Break Up, that feels forced to have a happy ending as opposed to going in a more organic route. The more natural, dark path that Schumer seems to be moving towards is abruptly halted at the very end to have a happy ending that doesn’t fit in terms of tone and style to the rest of the film. It feels tacked on, as if the film couldn’t have been made without the happy ending instead of the more interesting character study moment.
The film has so much good going for it that some of the film’s more bizarre choices, including Marv Albert narrating an intervention led by Lebron James while in the same room, that it feels like this is a film changed radically after filming with a handful of scenes never meant to see the light of day and an “alternate” ending used instead of the one originally filmed. There’s a great story about the disillusionment of a woman with the party lifestyle, and of facing serious truths about her and her family, that has a number of moments shoehorned into for no real reason.
Trainwreck is just that: a trainwreck of a debut for Amy Schumer.
Director: Judd Apatow Writer: Amy Schumer Notable Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, John Cena, LeBron James