Saturday 1 October 2016

Film: Good-time girl, interrupted

Amy Schumer shines in this problematic comedy

Paul Whitington

Published 15/08/2015 | 07:00

Apatow for destruction: Amy Schumer and Bill Hader star in Judd Apatow's latest comedy offering, 'Trainwreck'
Apatow for destruction: Amy Schumer and Bill Hader star in Judd Apatow's latest comedy offering, 'Trainwreck'

My little heart tends to sink when I see Judd Apatow's name above the credits. Where Apatow goes, jokes about the male member are sure to follow, as are his sundry hangers-on, Franco, Rogen, Hill and company. Happily, however, none of those too-familiar faces are on view in Trainwreck, which turns out to be not your typical Judd Apatow film at all.

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In fact it's more an Amy Schumer movie than an Apatow one, because she wrote the script, stars, and totally dominates this winning but problematic comedy by sheer force of personality. An acclaimed stand-up and Comedy Central regular, Ms Schumer is best known for her hilarious TV sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, in which she conducts mortifying sexually themed vox-pops and gives us gloomy insights into her shambolic private life. And in a sense her character in Trainwreck is an extension of that clumsy comic persona.

New York journalist Amy Townsend (Ms Schumer) parties hard and has casual sex with lots of men even though she's notionally going out with a dim bodybuilder called Steven (John Cena). She works at an obnoxious men's magazine called 'S'nuff', which is run by a terrifying English harridan called Dianna (Tilda Swinton) and pumps out articles with titles like 'Ugliest Celebrity Kids under Six' and 'You're Not Gay, She's Boring'.

It's a suitably cynical environment for a young woman who seems hell bent on avoiding the stifling pitfalls of domesticity. Amy enforces a strict "never, ever let them sleep over" rule, and seems to be deliberately sabotaging her relationship with Steven. Here, then, is a girl who'll never fall in love: but this is a Hollywood comedy, so she has to.

Despite her fervent belief that "sports are stupid", Amy is chosen by her psychotic editor to write a profile of Aaron Conners (Bill Hader) a celebrated surgeon who specialises in sports injuries and is best mates with various basketball and baseball stars.

Amy couldn't care less, and struggles to hide her boredom when she first meets Conners. But he turns out to be a charming, self-effacing man with real soul and a sense of humour. So she sleeps with him, but the problems start when Aaron then expects her to begin an actual relationship.

Though needlessly crude in its comedy at times, Amy Schumer's script has many moments of bracing originality. Amy's interactions with her feckless but loveable father (Colin Quinn) and her annoyingly perfect younger sister (Brie Larson) have the salty ring of believability and, for once in a Hollywood romcom, Schumer's character seems like an actual flesh and blood woman rather than some ditsy construct.

Bill Hader proves an excellent comic foil, Tilda Swinton roars everyone else off the screen whenever she appears, and basketball star LeBron James is most amusing playing a fictionalised version of himself. There's a lot to enjoy, then, and Schumer herself is irresistible as the confused but free-spirited Amy.

But once her character hooks up with the good doctor, Trainwreck ceases being a brash and ironic sex comedy and turns into something much sterner, and more conventional.

"Don't judge me, f***ers," Amy warns her audience, but that's exactly what this film does. She drinks a bit too much, is promiscuous, and shows no interest whatever in motherhood, so must need fixing. A sobering epiphany is required, so Amy's forced to quit the booze and must become less threatening, more girly, in order to find happiness.

This odious reactionary undercurrent undoes the charm of a brash, breezy comedy that might have been something special. And though Ms Schumer's irresistible energy and formidable comic talent ultimately saves the day, Trainwreck runs a half hour too long and leaves one with a nasty taste in one's mouth.

Trainwreck

(16, 125 mins)

3 Stars

Irish Independent

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