FROM STAND-UP TO TELEVISION TO FILM, THIS COMIC RIDES HER OWN BULLET TRAIN
By T.T. Stern-Enzi
Rating: R, Grade: A
Amy Schumer is on the fastest of the fast tracks. The successful stand-up comedienne made the transition from the stage of comedy clubs to her own Comedy Central show (“Inside Amy Schumer”) look like a stroll across a barely traveled two-lane road. She has attracted attention for her skewering of sexism with sharp barbs and seemingly weathered a recent firestorm about her approach to the subject of race with the assurance of a social media spin-master. The social media connection ties into the high-speed mode that has allowed her to dominate the game in such a brief blink of an eye.
As a film critic, I tend to miss “Inside Amy Schumer” during its night-time run, but find myself instantly plugged into all things “Amy Schumer” thanks to blogs and the Twitterverse, which presents instant feedback on each episode (sometimes it feels like the collective reaction posts before the sketches have even finished airing) and alerts me to the highlights with Sportscenter Top Ten flair. And I hungrily feast on the clips as soon as possible, which helps to maintain my status as a member of the cool kids.
But I feared the “Amy Schumer” bubble might have been on the verge of bursting with the imminent arrival of her new film “Trainwreck,” directed by comedy guru Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” among a host of other movies that he has either produced, written, and/or directed). Apatow is a comedy Midas, so much so that it seems like he doesn’t even have to lay his hands directly on a project for it to take on a golden glimmer, but how long can his run last? And with him working from a script by Schumer, a sketch talent to be sure but taking center stage writing and acting here, the fall from such dizzying heights could be catastrophic, right?
Schumer barely even blinks.
Her character, named Amy, is likely a more polished and professional version of the “Amy Schumer” character from her stand-up or some of her “Inside Amy Schumer” bits; meaning Amy stands before us with backstory to flesh out her comic imperfections. She’s the eldest daughter of a father (Colin Quinn) who was a crude and unfaithful drunk. Despite all that, her dad passed along what struck her as sage advise that the adult Amy took to heart: Monogamy is an unrealistic fairy tale for candy-assed dreamers susceptible to getting hoodwinked by the lie of living happily ever after. You’re only happy for a night or two, if that, so enjoy it when you can and move on quickly.
It doesn’t hurt that grown-up Amy works for a cheeky men’s magazine that subscribed to gutter-level assertions about what matters to what passed for men today (sex, sports, sex and raunchy sex). At a pitch meeting, Amy winds up with an assignment to interview a legendary sports doctor (Bill Hader) who performs miracle surgeries on the greatest players on Earth and happens to be best buds with LeBron James (who could have a successful career playing this quite scintillating version of himself). Surprise, surprise, Amy falls for the good doctor—who really is quite good because Hader is proving to be an all-star talent with all-around game as both a comedic and dramatic performer—but must overcome the faulty hard-wiring from her father.
“Trainwreck” is a flat-out riot, in terms of the romantic comedy elements. The whole cast sells the human relatability of the gags—especially the non-comic players like James and wrestler John Cena (who is hilarious in his early extended cameo as one of Amy’s lovers who hangs around longer than usual)—but Schumer shows a willingness to fearlessly venture beyond the comfort of easy laughs into real emotional territory. As the character and the top-lining talent both in front of and behind the camera, Schumer stands up before us without the safety net of a joke and lays bare the sadness of her clownish persona.