Trainwreck Puts Amy Schumer on the Star Track

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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Photo by Mary Cybulski – Courtesy of Universal Studios

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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Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios

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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024