Saturday, July 18, 2015


Amy Schumer Triumphs

     Trainwreck directed by Judd Apatow, but more significantly written by Amy Schumer, examines the life of a single professional woman in her thirties who hasn’t shed her party girl proclivities.  We first saw Schumer on the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen in 2011 and Neil reminded me that I thought she was foul, though hilarious.  She’s still crude, but working with other performers, rather than going it alone, provides her the opportunity to develop a much more complex character both culturally and politically. Even with the dirty language and the hilarious sex scenes in which it is the male body that is objectified, Trainwreck is sensational.

Amy's Escapade with John Cena
     In her standup, Schumer has relayed her sexual exploits and simultaneously been delighted and disgusted by her partners and herself.  In Trainwreck, Amy as Amy encounters real love both for herself and through the relationships of others.  It doesn’t always run smoothly and sex messes it up, but Schumer presents characters and relationships that deserve a second look (and, therefore, live up to the definition of respect).  Women can be professionals and they can be wives and mothers; they can be square, though they’re also less fun or they can be hip without being completely soulless.  Female cheerleaders can bring a community together as one character puts it and support other women.  Men can be competent professionally, kind, and romantic partners.  Athletes can be smart and funny.  

Amy Dealing with Mom Issues
     I don’t mean to make this sound like a cinematic ‘Kumbaya,’ but there’s a greater depth than can be displayed on a TV promo.  There’s a great joke about Woody Allen, for instance, and there’s a reversal of an older/younger physical relationship that turns dangerous.  How the older person could have avoided it without asking for I.D. is never underlined, though the slickest character cracks a dark joke about it.

The Romantic Leads—Schumer and Hader
     Gayle Keller (with Apatow’s and Schumer’s input, I’m certain) has cast the movie brilliantly.  I wouldn’t have thought of Bill Hader as a romantic lead, but he’s delightful as the grown up who’s looking for someone wild – the basis for screwball comedy since the ‘30s.  With this role after last year’s The Skeleton Twins, he proves he has a wide range.  Brie Larson plays the younger sister who’s both a loving (step)mother and a resentful daughter.  Colin Quinn has a wonderful scene at the very beginning explaining to his daughters the reasons for his divorce using a context they can understand that sets up all the family dynamics and then returns as a younger curmudgeon, who refuses to be 
Tilda Swinton
sentimental.  It took me a couple of minutes to realize that the hard-edged editor with the lower-middle class London accent and the Miami skin was Tilda Swinton.  She’s a satire (I hope) of Joanna Coles or Zanna Roberts Rassi.  Norman Lloyd plays Quinn’s table companion in the assisted living home and is lovely at 100, no less.  Vanessa Bayer’s dewy lipped naïveté contrasts beautifully with Schumer’s style and works 
LeBron James with Bill Hader
better here than on Saturday Night Live.  LeBron James is charming and intelligent as Schumer writes him; much more so than when he’s interviewed.  John Cena lampoons his image as Amy’s sensitive boyfriend, who unconsciously wrestles (pun intended) with complex, ambivalent attractions both dressed and nude.  There are cameos by a number of professional athletes and SNL veterans, both past and current, and all of them succeed.

     The only drawback for Schumer could be what she does next.  She leaps beyond her comic persona into a more profound place, but can she sustain it and will she be given the opportunity to fail?  Maybe it’s too early to consider Schumer’s magnitude, but Hollywood’s bean counters (or executives, though they’ve become the same thing) will start on Monday.  Going back a few years, Jane Curtin was allowed only limited film roles, but succeeded very well in sitcoms.  Janene Garafolo had a chance until she had a flop and that was it.  Bridesmaids placed Kristen Wiig front and center in Hollywood, but she hasn’t had another commercial success, mainly because she’s bravely taken on artistic challenges.  Instead, it was Melissa McCarthy who used that movie as a jumping off point for a major movie career.

1 comment:

Bea said...

I've been excited to see this film since first hearing about it months ago. I think Amy Schumer is hilarious & has her finger on the pulse with respect to feminism and funnies. I hope my enthusiasm does not diminish what should be a fab cinematic ride.