Schumer and Apatow make raunchy feel classy in their hilarious big-screen collaboration.
Judd Apatow and Amy Schumer‘s Trainwreck is an odd little thing. How does a movie so raunchy and brash ultimately turn out to be one of the most polished, classiest comedies of the year? Seems these two comedy juggernauts are the only ones in on the secret. Trainwreck‘s only rival is Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy‘s Spy, a movie whose humor works very well, but lacks the discipline and sophistication of the former’s more socially aware material.
Yes, I said sophistication, and yes, Trainwreck sees Schumer tearing through Manhattan on a boozy sex rampage, with most of the humor stemming from calamitous events involving her nether region. This is the same well-crafted gross-out humor that rocketed Schumer to the front of the mainstream media line, the stuff that fuels her eminently popular show, Inside Amy Schumer. Her charm is her fearlessness and willingness to make herself look like an ass, as long as we know she’s being completely honest with us. It’s a winning formula, and one she employs to great success in her big-screen collaboration with Apatow.
Schumer, as she’s liable to do, plays a variation of herself (her character’s name is Amy) in the conventionally-plotted rom-com, which she wrote herself. Rabid sex monster Amy Townsend’s origin story is dispensed with quickness in the film’s opening: in a flashback to her childhood, we see her father (perennial grump Colin Quinn) explaining to she and her sister (played later by Brie Larson) that monogamy is for fools. Hence, Amy’s adult life has been defined by reckless sexcapades rather than traditional romantic pursuits. She’s got a steady boyfriend (an inexplicably hilarious John Cena), but he’s just there to take her to the movies and share the occasional meal with; she gets her rocks off with other men all the time, unbeknownst to the lovable muscle-head. (One of the movie’s biggest laughs belongs to Cena, whose ambiguously gay character intimidates another man by growling, “You know what I do to assholes! I lick ’em!”)
She works at a faux-classy magazine called S’Nuff, her editor a wickedly egocentric witch played by Tilda Swinton (whose character work has been fantastic of late). Her latest assignment is to do a profile on sports doctor Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), whose clientele includes Lebron James and Amar’e Stoudemire (both of whom play themselves, to moderate amusement). As you’ve probably guessed by now, Hader’s character turns out to be “the one,” the guy who finally convinces Amy to give monogamy a go. Their relationship hits some snags when Amy’s demons (sibling jealousy, deceased mom, dad-instilled bad attitude) compel her to reject Aaron’s affection, but things work out in the end, because Apatow.
The classic rom-com formula is represented here without deviation, but the movie works because it’s all just a frame for Schumer’s personality and charisma, which is rich and colorful enough to carry any plot, even unimaginative ones, to success. Moment to moment, she’s crazy funny, from her line delivery, to her facial expressions, to her self-deprecating physical humor. As in her other work, her social commentary sneaks up on you. While having tea with her sister’s prudish, soccer-mom friends, one woman confides that she has yet to explain to her son what gay people are. With a priceless look of befuddlement, Amy interjects: “Well…they’re people.”
Celebrity cameos, if anything, are the movie’s achilles heel. Some work (Cena), some don’t (James), but there are just so goddamn many of them stuffed in there that the movie threatens to combust under all the pressure. A moronic intervention scene including unfunny cameos by Matthew Broderick and Marv Albert is egregious, but not nearly as bad as a shoehorned fake arthouse movie-within-the-movie starring Marisa Tomei and Daniel Radcliffe, who’s only thrown in there to make Potter fans squeal.
Schumer and Hader bring the movie back to life whenever they share the screen, however. They glide in and out of tone with grace and synchronicity, and unlike a lot of rom-com couples, their arguments feel just as real as their romantic exchanges. Apatow and Schumer, despite their reputations as champions of crude humor, are storytellers of taste and restraint. They’re never cruel to us or their characters, and that discipline is what sets Trainwreck apart.