The meteoric rise to fame in the past year of comedian Amy Schumer can be attributed to several factors. She has the quick wit and the timing down all right. But above all, you’re instantly struck, taken aback and disarmed by how blunt she is, how terribly, magnificently comfortable she is in her own skin. We’re used to hearing raunchy jokes about genitals with beeped-out expletives from Louis C.K. or Chris Rock, but coming from a young woman who happens to have a relatable body fat ratio, they just seem all the more inappropriate and so damn funny.
Riding against or perhaps on top of such latent sexism, Schumer wrote and starred in her first movie, Trainwreck, a romantic comedy centered around a thirtysomething commitment-phobic career woman named Amy. The self-deprecation begins with the title of course. And it doesn’t take long before this Amy starts to rebel against all conventional female stereotypes and act out on screen what we all secretly believe our Amy does in her spare time: she parties like a pro, has a string of one-night-stands, falls asleep while getting pleasured by a guy and owns her promiscuity like a genuinely enlightened being. This uncommon portrayal of The Girl, or The Love Interest of The Guy, is refreshing and expectably delightful. The hilarity from a reversal of presumed gender roles continues when Amy meets Aaron the sports doctor (Hader), an old-fashioned-dating kind of guy attracted to and slightly emasculated by this wildfire of a girl who’s barged into his life. So far, all pretty swell.
But then the movie goes into a prolonged second and then an off-puttingly reconciliatory third act where Amy is made to realize her faults, quit her bad habits and win back The Guy. It’s the most standard of all story arcs and shouldn’t be judged too harshly. But then again, when the supposed anti-romcom led by the symbol of liberated female sexuality fares this closely to Sandra Bullock/Meg Ryan territory, it’s damaging. The final cheerleading routine alone cancels a lot of the goodwill from the strong if goofily delivered message of empowerment.
As a performer, Schumer is best when she’s just doing a bit. With a twinkle in her eyes and all the ease in the world, she could get away with saying the least classy things. The scene where she recounts the experience of fishing a condom out of her body to the horror of surrounding young moms comes to mind. SNL-cast member Bayer, playing Amy’s friend Nikki, also contributes to several golden moments with her signature clueless expressions. On the whole, Trainwreck is a decent enough piece of work with solid laughs here and there. It’s just that, with a brain like Schumer’s behind it, we honestly expected more.
Trainwreck | Directed by Judd Apatow (USA) with Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, LeBron James, Vanessa Bayer. Starts August 13