Forgive me for stating the obvious, but Amy Schumer is a formidable comedian. It’s a real backward-looking shame the marketing team for TRAINWRECK felt they had to both promote it as a Judd Apatow project (he directs, but was not responsible for the concept or screenplay) and jumped straight to comparing it to BRIDESMAIDS (the perceived go-to funny women movie). This is unquestionably Schumer’s show. It’s not even “one for the girls” (and I almost wretch using that phrase) but should make anybody who doesn’t have a problem with dirty humour guffaw until their sides hurt at a relentless stream of gags just as filthy as anything Apatow or any of his frequent collaborators penned themselves.
Lifestyle magazine columnist Amy (Amy Schumer) has a problem with men. She meets and beds plenty of fellas on wild nights out, but avoids commitment like the plague. She is content enough with her lifestyle choices, taking little responsibility for herself but happy to care for her ailing father (Colin Quinn) as her younger sister (Brie Larson) settles down to a cosy family life. But then a chance meeting with a sports doctor (Bill Hader) shifts her perspective on life irrevocably.
Roughly half of the film presents itself as a sort of anti-rom-com, with Amy dodging out of the way of love with gusto. She didn’t have the best role model growing up in an unfaithful dad (seen in a really dark doll-based opening flashback) and therefore forms her strong and flawed attitude to relationships early. The film’s second half loses its straightforwardness and honesty and reverts to formula to an extent as Amy finally falls for a man as much as he falls for her. The film never loses the feelgood factor though and it has a killer final set piece.
What a glorious personality Amy is – she may be crass with a warped idea of healthy relationships, but she’s a good person at heart and an endearing character to spend time with. Schumer not only delivers the laughs in abundance (sometimes with a line or a pratfall, often with a look) but also shows her dramatic range, drawing on her real-life experiences in Amy’s far more emotionally raw moments later on. John Hader makes a good straight man to Amy as well as taking his character on not quite the expected route for the love interest. Strong support also comes from Brie Larson as Amy’s younger but maturer sister and a terrifyingly dolled-up Tilda Swinton as Amy’s vile boss. Before this movie I had no idea who John Cena was. He’s great in this though, and has since proven himself to have natural comic timing in addition to his willingness to poke fun at himself. Cena’s unintentionally homoerotic, rapidly escalating argument in a cinema is hands-down the funniest scene of 2015.
I don’t follow American sports or sports stars. I’m sure there are references and in-jokes I missed because of this (something Schumer, who I think is a massive sports fan in contrast to the character she plays doubtless intended). Even I know who Lebron James is though, and he turns out to be a really good comic actor too – who knew?
Through Apatow wasn’t the creative driving force, like most of the films he has directed Trainwreck does suffer from Overlong Comedy Syndrome. But because Apatow stepped back and Schumer is playing her A-game, the humour and heart stay with it throughout, despite it running out of steam towards the end. You don’t object to spending more time with Amy and the jokes never stop coming, but once she’s started to confront her problems in earnest further diversions become slightly annoying. This is a minor criticism and nothing that should put you off watching one of finest, filthiest and least vain comedies in years. Following Trainwreck Amy Schumer should have her pick of projects – she is not someone to be underestimated. SSP