Amy Schumer is American comedy’s woman of the moment, and deservedly so (if you don’t believe me, you probably haven’t seen the magnificent 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer yet - watch an excerpt here), so it was only a matter of time before she gravitated towards Judd Apatow (KNOCKED UP, FUNNY PEOPLE), Hollywood’s foremost enabler of new comic talent.
Schumer is writer and star of TRAINWRECK, which judging from her stand-up would appear to be loosely based in her own experience. She plays Amy (see?), a dyed-in-the-wool commitment-phobe in her early thirties. She makes her living writing features for a god-awful lad’s mag, which brings her into contact with sports surgeon Aaron (Bill Hader) who, much to everyone’s surprise but most of all Amy’s, likes her and wants for them to fall conventionally in love – but of course she’s going to make every attempt to sabotage it.
With three seasons of her TV show under her belt, Schumer is going from strength to strength, but you get the feeling that TRAINWRECK was either written some years ago (that career in magazine journalism is now a horribly outdated fantasy - which only gets waaaay more fantastical as the movie progresses, but I digress), or this is her first attempt at a feature screenplay and she’s not confident enough with the story format yet to throw in any truly exciting or original moves. Which isn’t to say that the film’s not funny - TRAINWRECK’s jokes are hilarious; its plot is first base.
Likewise, this isn’t exactly a stretch for director/producer Apatow. His benchmark as a storyteller remains FUNNY PEOPLE, which allowed us an authoritative, sophisticated glimpse into the world of professional comics, and he allowed his characters to make complex decisions. But here we’re back in the familiar formula of THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and KNOCKED UP – beneath all the R-rated one-liners lies a safe, even conservative story arc where in the end, the main players can be expected to do what middle American audiences want them to (a burden that the Apatow produced BRIDESMAIDS managed to overcome).
That said, TRAINWRECK is wonderful in the moment: Schumer plays to her own brassy strengths, while SNL and South Park alumnus Hader sportingly plays the straight man not only her, but a surprisingly game and genuinely funny offsider in LeBron James (playing a version of himself). Kudos also to John Cena in a role as brave as it would be seemingly unlikely, but top honours go to Tilda Swinton as Amy’s all too familiar, Oopma-Loompa orange boss, a character so hilariously vile you just want to kill by force-feeding her own make-up collection.
It never becomes the stone-cold classic we want it to be, but TRAINWRECK is nevertheless is a very fun couple of hours, and a fine start to Schumer’s big screen career. The next step could produce something very special indeed.
TRAINWRECK is released July 17 in the US, August 6 in Australia, August 13 in NZ, and August 14 in the UK.