Schumer’s is fictional and hilarious; Winehouse’s real and painful to watch
Amy Schumer’s character in her new movie may be a Trainwreck, but Schumer herself is anything but. The provocative stand-up comedian has already gone viral this year with her Comedy Central sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, which has transcended cable relevancy to become an online phenomenon. She has appeared—usually faux salaciously —on many magazine covers. Her biting and funny public comments on racism, sex, and feminism are quoted, and then analyzed, then quoted again.
And now Schumer is starring in the latest Judd Apatow raunch-tacular, Trainwreck, for which she also wrote the screenplay. Thankfully, the movie continues her current winning streak.
Trainwreck cleverly tweaks the conventions of romantic comedies without abandoning them entirely. It takes celebrity athlete, stand-up comedian, and actor cameos to a new plateau with several winning support performances. But most important, it is hysterically, shockingly, charmingly funny: a perfect cinematic distillation of Schumer’s cute-girl-next-door-with-a-sailor’s-mouth persona.
Trainwreck tells the story of Amy Townsend, a magazine writer whose views on relationships were warped at an early age by her alcoholic, tomcat father (played by Colin Quinn). Now a single adult in New York City, she is a carefree party-hard girl who keeps commitment at a healthy arm’s length. Assigned by her editor to profile Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader), an accomplished sports doctor, Amy is stunned to find herself genuinely falling for him.
Of course, the rom-com road to love is prescribed to be rocky, but one of the many charms of this movie is how it twits the genre, starting with having Schumer play the traditional male role. There is more than simple role-reversal going on here, however, because Schumer’s screenplay also lovingly mocks such familiar romantic comedy tropes as the montage, the inevitable Act 3 breakup, and the climactic reconciliation. The script is so tightly packed with jokes close on the heels of other jokes that I missed a number as they were drowned out by audience laughter.
Both Schumer and Hader demonstrate modest but effective acting chops not always seen with stand-up and sketch comedians when they are required to portray fully-formed characters. It helps that their central love story is surrounded with many funny scenes with a terrific supporting cast. LeBron James plays himself as the good doctor’s unlikely best friend and protector. Tilda Swinton, unrecognizably normal-looking, is Amy’s glib boss. And a number of familiar comics—Dave Atell, Mike Birbiglia, and SNL’s Vanessa Bayer—ably play other minor roles.
Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) keeps the narrative moving confidently without some of the amusing but distracting tangents that have hampered some of his own “written and directed by” features. The film does go off the rails briefly after the characters break up, but it arrives full-steam at its destination with a romantic resolution that is truly priceless.
Trainwreck succeeds with the same dichotomous nature as its star and author. It is funny and touching, sexy and dorky, vulnerable and, more than anything, fearless. Our beloved Miss Schumer has deservedly become a star.
The searing new documentary by Asif Kapadia about Amy Winehouse, simply titled Amy, uses home-video footage and archival TV interviews and concerts to reconstruct the brief, troubled life of the British soul singer. Since so much of Winehouse’s tragic story is told through this personal footage, captured by her and her friends while she was alive, Amy has an immediacy not often found in documentaries. We viewers are watching her career and life take off and come crashing to an abrupt halt, right in front of our eyes.
It is awkward to recommend this film because it is incredibly painful to watch. But I do nevertheless, both for the poignant reminder of Amy’s precocious, oversized talent and also for the cautionary observation that immense talent often is insufficient to keep one’s demons in check.