If there’s any doubt that raunchy, boundary-destroying comedienne Amy Schumer is Hollywood’s next big thing, Trainwreck should put all of it to rest. In her first major feature role, Schumer wrote herself a character that retains the edgy style of humor fans expect, softened just enough with the kind of heart that will make others love her for completely different reasons. And seen through the lens of director Judd Apatow, who typically tells this kind of story with slovenly male protagonists, Trainwreck is a welcome breath of fresh air and the emergence of a brilliant new voice.
Well, let’s say it’s the emergence of multiple comic voices, because co-stars LeBron James and WWE poster boy John Cena are just as good in much smaller roles. Schumer plays Amy, a hard-partying, hard-drinking sexual dynamo with no need for commitment whatsoever. It’s a lesson learned early from her father (Colin Quinn), who taught Amy and her sister (Brie Larson) that monogamy is a fantasy. Amy took the lesson to heart, while she’s grown to resent her sibling who has settled into quiet married life with a husband and stepchild. She treats sex like an Olympic sport, racing through as many guys as possible, which comes as a surprise to her muscled, lunk-head boyfriend (Cena) who mistakenly believes they’re in a committed relationship. Oops. Cena, who is basically the boy scout of the WWE, takes that role to a new level here. His character’s so squeaky clean (or possibly homosexual) that his dirty talk consists of overused sports slogans: “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team'”!
Meanwhile it’s James, playing a hilariously sensitive, penny-pinching version of himself, who plays best buds with famed sports doctor Aaron Chambers (Bill Hader), the man Amy is tasked with writing a fluff magazine article about. She writes for sleazy dude rag S’Nuff, led by a nasty, dispassionate editor played by an unrecognizably British Tilda Swinton. Aaron is nothing like the other guys she sleeps with, but after a late night fling that surprises them both (Aaron’s reaction upon learning she’s coming to his house for sex is priceless), Amy begins to get that loving feeling, something she’s not at all comfortable with.
Schumer’s modus operandi is flipping the script on clichés, and Trainwreck finds her taking this gift to a different level. In some of the film’s best interactions, Amy and a co-worker express the same relationship phobia we see guys have on a regular basis. Other than her total aversion to sports (her favorite team is the “Orlando Blooms”), Amy is a total dude; she’s messy, awkward, terrible at expressing her deepest feelings, and we see that play out in some wonderful shared moments with Aaron and her sister. While Schumer’s style blends perfectly with Apatow’s own sensibilities, what really makes Trainwreck great are the performances. Schumer isn’t like your typical stand-up comedian learning how to act in front of the camera. She’s a trained performer with a background in stage acting, and it leads to some wonderfully touching scenes with deep emotional impact. One involves the loss of a major figure in Amy’s life, and another in an argument between Amy and Aaron that stretches through the night and wrecks them both.
There’s very little that Schumer gets wrong here. She even manages to tone down some of Apatow’s exhausting, long-winded tendencies, perhaps because the script is hers and not his. They balance one another out beautifully, making Trainwreck easily Apatow’s best film since Knocked Up, and easily the funniest movie of the year so far.