It’s been a hell of a year for Amy Schumer, who seemed to pop up almost everywhere as her cable sketch-comedy series hit its stride. She’s at once on point with the social climate of her time and willing to push boundaries. Most importantly, she’s really goddamn funny. It only makes sense that this summer would be the time that she makes her bid for movie stardom in a film directed by professional comedy star-maker Judd Apatow. As expected, ‘Trainwreck’ is “hold in your hernia” funny, but also oddly old-fashioned. Not necessarily in a bad way, just in a way that might feel slightly jarring to her fans even if it’s likely an ideal introduction point for the few people left who don’t know her yet.
In a big stretch, Amy Schumer stars as a girl named Amy. She writes for a men’s magazine, which basically gives her enough cash to afford a nice New York apartment as well as to suck back all the booze her liver can handle and all the weed her lungs can carry. She also sleeps around a lot, a lifestyle informed by her deadbeatish father (Colin Quinn) who went out of his way to teach Amy and her sister (Brie Larson) the impracticality of monogamy. In between rounds of random dudes and breaking the heart of her muscly boyfriend (wrestler John Cena), her psychotic-ish editor assigns her a feature article on a sports surgeon. Given that Amy despises sports of all kind, she dreads the gig until she meets a charmingly dorky Bill Hader and suddenly gets that whole love thing bubbling up in her belly. That obviously fucks up her freeform lifestyle, but maybe (just maybe) in a good way.
The first half hour or so of ‘Trainwreck’ is pretty much exactly what you’d imagine an Amy Schumer movie to be: filthy, raw, fearless and empowering. Then, once Hader comes along, the whole thing shifts into a rom-com. That might feel a bit odd for Schumer, who’s best known for making statements through shock tactics rather than teasing out emotions (even though she proves to be a genuinely gifted dramatic actress when cut loose), but it makes sense for a collaboration between her and Judd Apatow. After all, he’s the guy who put the “R” in rom-com. Gradually transforming raunchy laughs into mature relationship studies is what he does, and the duo make a strong pair. It’s not as loose as Apatow’s most frustratingly tangential movies or as cynically laugh-driven as Schumer’s output. Call it conventionally unconventional. Or just stop overthinking it and enjoy the laughs.
Thank god there are plenty of those. Schumer of course does plenty of heavy lifting herself, spitting out a barrage of hysterical observations and delightful filth through her script and the inevitable improv sessions. She also wisely surrounds herself with comedian buddies who all work their magic, such as Colin Quinn as a lovable shit of father, Mike Birbiglia as her nauseatingly nice and perpetually sweatered brother-in-law, Vanessa Bayer has her uncomfortably perky friend, Jon Glaser as a male mag douche, and Dave Attell as one of the great endearingly dirty hobos in cinema history. Apatow also gets unexpectedly huge laughs out of non-comics like Cena and LeBron James (whose comedy team with Hader is almost unfairly funny). Plus, obviously, Tilda Swinton delivers because she’s Tilda fucking Swinton. Yet despite everyone competing for hard R laughs around the edges, the movie rests on Schumer and Hader’s surprisingly sweet and sincere romance.
Unexpectedly stuck in a love interest role, Hader can’t do any of his chameleon character schtick and emerges as a lovable dork to complete the unconventionally sexy couple. Sure, at first Schumer and Apatow piss all over rom-com conventions with mocking montages that undercut the growing love with sarcastic commentary and vulgarity. Eventually, though, they commit to their love story, and it’s a sweetly mature one largely devoid of fairy tale clichés and unafraid to explore ugly emotions.
Many will complain that serving up conventional love and family as a lifestyle ideal undermines the positive depiction of guilt-free female sexuality that kicks off the movie, and they have a point. However, as odd as it might sound, the romantic comedy is pretty much dying as a Hollywood genre, so in a weird way making one that works is a little against the grain these days, and Schumer/Apatow should be commended for that as well. They’ve delivered a genuinely sweet rom-com that also happens to have the best period blood and dickhole jokes of the summer movie season. Now that’s entertainment.