‘Trainwreck’ proves Amy Schumer’s mettle as a writer and an actor | News Entertainment

‘Trainwreck’ proves Amy Schumer’s mettle as a writer and an actor

16 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Review: All aboard for the Amy Schumer show in ‘Trainwreck’.

Stand-up comedian and Comedy Central phenom Amy Schumer proves her cinematic bona fides in “Trainwreck,” a strikingly assured feature film debut in which she proves herself as authentic an actress as she is deft as a writer. A warm, anarchic romantic comedy about a promiscuous journalist adrift in modern-day New York, “Trainwreck” hews to the now-familiar contours of raunchy, R-rated comedy: It trafficks in the frank dialogue, absurd sexual situations and mortifying visual stunts familiar to viewers who made “Knocked Up,” “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids” huge hits. Yet women too often are relegated to playing cheerful love objects in romantic comedies, which, beneath all the sex and profane hilarity and drinking and drugging, is what “Trainwreck” is. But Schumer — apple-cheeked and blue-eyed, with the mouth of a longshoreman and the countenance of a choir girl — infuses the genre with rare warmth and emotional honesty. Here, Schumer, playing a woman who boozes and has sex and misbehaves on her own terms, gets what’s traditionally the male role in this kind of film, and with the help of Judd Apatow’s direction, she kills it.

Schumer plays a character named Amy, whom we meet as a 9-year-old girl in the opening scene of “Trainwreck” as her father (Colin Quinn) explains why he’s leaving her mother, comparing marriage to playing with the same boring old doll all your life. “Monogamy isn’t realistic,” he insists. But Schumer, who wrote the film, has given us someone to root for, who, at least at the exhilarating start, is as much blue-mouthed antihero as heroine. Her younger sister (played as an adult by Brie Larson) has gotten married to a good if slightly nerdy guy (Mike Birbiglia), but Amy is creeped out by their domestic bliss.

She prefers to drink, get high and cheat on her bodybuilder boyfriend (John Cena) with an ever-changing roster of anonymous one-night stands, whom she routinely dispatches before the sun comes up. Grown-up Amy has taken this to heart; she has a kind of, sort of meathead boyfriend-type person (John Cena, an exceedingly good sport), but she sleeps around whenever she likes. Amy’s party-hearty lifestyle provides plenty of comic fodder in “Trainwreck.” She compares one date’s physical endowments to the “whole cast of ‘Game of Thrones,’ ” then, after attaining her own sexual satisfaction, promptly falls asleep. He and the girls chat outside with a lightning storm approaching as he teaches them to repeat his mantra, “monogamy is a lie.” Twenty years later, Amy’s younger but more mature sister Kimberly (Brie Larson) has a good husband, a loving son and a beautiful home.

But it’s clear that Amy’s commitment-phobia and compulsive self-medication are masking more primal wounds, which come to the surface when she meets a sweet sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader) and when her troubled relationship with her father takes an unexpectedly somber turn. One supposes that, with all the meaningless sex and relentless drinking, something is missing in Amy’s life; one supposes that, this being a romantic comedy, that thing is love.

Echoing her chauvinist father, Amy has the gall to scoff, throwing Kim’s blessings into question, always imagining intimacy’s stagnant conclusions. Amy’s closest proxy to a long-term relationship is bulky bodybuilder Steven (wrestling star John Cena), spouting meathead bedroom talk that resembles a sales pitch for protein bars.

Amy, a magazine writer, is assigned to profile him, even though she doesn’t like sports. (An unrecognizable Tilda Swinton has a blast as Amy’s coldly calculating editor.) Amy is horrified that Aaron not only likes her, but is a genuinely good person who is interested in more than what she looks for in a man. And she’s blessed with the perfect opposite number in Hader, who delivers yet another heartfelt, hugely appealing performance as a decent, if slightly out-of-his-depth, Everyman. His scenes with LeBron James — who, playing himself, delivers lines about topics including “Downton Abbey” and splitting a lunch check with expert, deadpan timing — lope along with companionable, low-key ease. (The film is studded with star-athlete cameos and features one flawlessly constructed A-Rod joke.) “Trainwreck” is directed by Judd Apatow, whose films have a tendency to sag, bag and bulge at the edges. This film has the same overlong, digressive streak, but it’s in the service of Schumer, whom Apatow naturally follows wherever she goes, even when she winds up in one or two cul-de-sacs.

An aside: The film does a good job with journalism ethics, especially an explanation of how “off the record” really works (you have to agree to it up front). A recurring movie-within-the-movie, starring two recognizable actors, feels like a juicy opportunity missed, and jokes about the racist assumptions Amy has inherited from her father fall thuddingly flat. Schumer’s “Trainwreck” character has been compared to Apatow’s similarly directionless, infantile male protagonists, but in many ways she resembles his finest artistic creation: the complex, conflicted Lindsay Weir of his television series “Freaks and Geeks.” Amy exudes more sexual confidence but possesses similar self-doubt and what just might be a tentative sense of worth. “Trainwreck” ends on a triumphant but also ambivalent note, with a gloriously goofy set piece that’s adorable, physically brave and completely disarming. One of its greatest highlights is a beyond-brilliant performance by LeBron James playing himself, which would earn him an MVP award in any championship comedy team. Apatow rivals Steven Spielberg as a devotee of the overabundance of heart. (Both were children of broken marriages and have said this colored their view, once they had control of the way stories end.) What’s nice is how smart the film is.

Aaron is thinly drawn, but when he tells Amy with a pained-looking deadpan that he’s got genuine boyfriend feelings for her, the story grows poignant. Yet — and this doubtless has something to do with Apatow — although she’s known for flamethrower truth-telling, here there is an underlying sweetness. They cope in conflict with their father’s decline as he faces a long, serious illness Not a lot of people throw themselves headfirst into a project like this. “Trainwreck” is a lesson on taking a profile too deep. Apatow’s breakout hits “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” had a similar recipe, but the happy ending of “Trainwreck” is out of harmony.

When it was over, I felt I was leaving the theater with all sorts of unresolved ideas tacked and taped to my head. “Trainwreck” is not a catastrophe, but no triumph, either.

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