FILM REVIEW by Don Perlgut of Trainwreck – Amy Schumer is enjoying widespread success – her TV show Inside Amy Schumer is hot and earlier this year she was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.
Now Schumer has written the screenplay and stars in the romantic comedy Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, the American Jewish filmmaker who seems to have reinvented movie comedy.
Schumer’s character in Trainwreck is Amy Townsend and the role is clearly autobiographical. Her on-screen sister is Kim, excellently played by Brie Larson (21 Jump Street) and her on-screen father is Gordon, played by Saturday Night Live veteran Colin Quinn.
Townsend lives in New York, working for a popular men’s magazine edited by Dianna, played by an unrecognisable Tilda Swinton who creates a character of breathtaking and hilarious self-obsession.
Townsend is unhappy in love, using men for sex and not expecting much from her relationships. Things change when Dianna assigns her to write a story about a sweet-natured sports physician, Dr Aaron Conners (comedian Bill Hader, also from Saturday Night Live).
Conners understands her weaknesses and appreciates her strengths. Much of the film then charts Townsend’s attempts to develop their relationship in the best of the romantic comedy tradition.
Like almost every Apatow film, Trainwreck is slightly overlong with a predictable plot and conventional denouement, filled with many wonderful scenes, but ends up being somewhat less than the sum of its parts.
A number of scenes and plot devices simply don’t work. I could have skipped the film-within-a-film segment called “The Dogwalker” starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter films) and Marisa Tomei, and an odd scene with actor Matthew Broderick, tennis star Chris Evert and New York sportscaster Marv Albert (all playing themselves) when they counsel Conners.
Nevertheless, Trainwreck contains many humorous lines, the romance is fully believable, and most minor characters (some played by previously unknown actors) give unforgettable performances.
In addition to Tilda Swinton, professional basketball megastar LeBron James – playing himself as a colleague and friend of Conners – gives a subtle and delightfully comic performance.
And a deadpan Ezra Miller plays a young editorial intern in one of the funniest scenes of the movie, while legendary actor Norman Lloyd who is aged 100 – plays a crotchety Jewish resident at a Long Island nursing home.
Trainwreck is Schumer’s story. Like Lena Dunham in Girls (which Schumer recently appeared in), Schumer reflects the present moment of many semi-confident, young, urban women fitfully seeking romance and professional success.
Schumer is not your typical romantic star, but like other comics of her generation, she is fearless.
Although Schumer has a Jewish father and draws on Judaism in her comedy routines, her character in Trainwreck is Jewish only in that the self-deprecating comedy is filled with the angst of self-doubt.
Schumer is a great physical comic and Trainwreck truly soars when Schumer is on screen playing her role.
Unlike the majority of Apatow’s films, which are aimed squarely at male geeks (such as 40-Year-Old Virgin), Trainwreck will appeal to women more than men.
Minor criticisms aside, this film is a crowd-pleaser. In Australia Trainwreck is rated MA15+ due to its coarse language and simulated sex scenes, many of which are hilariously portrayed.
Trainwreck is currently screening.