Trainwreck Puts Amy Schumer on the Star Track

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Trainwreck is terrific, a powerhouse of a comedy with unexpectedly serious undertones: an altogether extraordinary debut feature for its star and writer, Amy Schumer.

As a notoriously bawdy standup comedienne and social-media participant Schumer has no filter: she says anything and everything that pops into her head. It isn’t always pretty. But in Trainwreck she has found an ideal collaborator: director, producer, writer and comedy guru Judd Apatow, who also helped shepherd Lena Dunham’s TV series Girls into existence. Apatow is no shrinking violet when it comes to sexual candor, but he seems to have helped Schumer focus her thoughts, steering away from sheer crassness for its own sake. Together they have created a cutting-edge comedy with a uniquely modern female protagonist.

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Thanks to her sassy voice-over, we know who we’re dealing with from the very start: a whip-smart, world-weary, self-deprecating, highly sexual woman who likes to drink and party but isn’t looking for a relationship. Her rowdy, divorced father (Colin Quinn) paved that road a long time ago, although Amy’s sister (Brie Larson) seems to have escaped the family curse and is happily married.

To make matters worse, Amy works for a brutally demanding, conscience-free editor (Tilda Swinton) at a smarmy pop-culture magazine, in an atmosphere that seems to encourage her hedonistic behavior.

Then Amy is assigned to interview a hotshot sports doctor (Bill Hader) who turns out to be a really nice guy. She can’t believe that he’s attracted to her—in a traditional, old-fashioned way—and this throws her a tremendous curve. It’s not just that she isn’t used to a straightforward romantic relationship: she doesn’t think she’s worthy.

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In dealing with this provocative story thread and Amy’s open hostility toward her sister’s marriage, along with her guilt over having to put her ailing father in a nursing home, Trainwreck deftly integrates relatable, real-world problems into its comedic narrative. Under Apatow’s direction, the movie manages to veer from hilarious sexual set-pieces (including a couple of great scenes with wrestler John Cena) to thoughtful moments, then back again. One of the film’s strongest assets is the presence of LeBron James, who is disarmingly natural and funny as Hader’s selfish but protective friend.

Trainwreck manages to put a fresh, contemporary spin on the concept of a mainstream romantic comedy. Your parents might not have approved…but this movie speaks to our time. It’s highly entertaining and surprisingly resonant. Amy Schumer is clearly a force to reckon with.

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April 2024