With an unlikely but extremely talented lead (who also happens to have written the piece), Judd Apatow (Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin) is at the top of his game directing this politically incorrect comedy.
Since she was a little girl, it’s been drilled into Amy (Amy Schumer) by her womanising father Gordon (Colin Quinn of HBO’s Girls) that monogamy isn’t realistic. Now a magazine writer, Amy lives by that credo, enjoying what she feels is an uninhibited life free from stifling, boring romantic commitment. In reality though, she is in kind of a rut. She has seen her younger sister Kim (Brie Larson from 21 Jump Street) settle comfortably with a man who cares deeply for her, even bringing up his young, ultra-polite stepson as if he were her own. Nevertheless, Amy has always shuddered at such a prospective fate for herself. Then she is caught totally off-guard when she finds herself falling for the subject of the new article she is writing. He is a charming, successful and conservative sports surgeon, Dr Aaron Connors (Bill Hader – The Skeleton Twins). Still, Amy can’t shake the feeling that this isn’t her.
Comedy is all about the writing and the timing and both are delivered with distinction in Trainwreck. Apatow has a history of helping to break distinctive new comedic voices into the mainstream – think Seth Rogen and Lena Dunham, among others.
Amy Schumer is a performer without pretense, who can make you blanche, laugh out loud and shed a tear. She has talent to burn with her deadpan delivery, which belies her passionate performance. This is a star turn if ever I have seen one. Not that Schumer is a total unknown. She has been steadily achieving cultural notoriety. She is nothing if not brutally honest. I am talking about her turns at the mike at awards shows and comedy clubs to clips of her series that go viral the moment they’re posted online. This unapologetic comic channels the relatable frustrations of her professional and romantic experiences and skewers laughable societal hypocrisies. Blending confessional comedy, gender politics and uproarious observation, Schumer has audiences loving the relatable truths she delivers in such a deceptively effortless manner. But all of that is a far cry from her feature film-starring debut, which has taken her to a whole new level.
It is not just Schumer though who performs at her peak. The delivery of many of the key players is noteworthy. Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) is great as Amy’s say it like it is, take-no-prisoners, acerbic magazine editor, while Colin Quinn makes an art form of the politically forsaken dad. Like Schumer, I would not have thought of Bill Hader as your traditional leading man and yet he brings a plausible on-screen chemistry to their relationship. His character is feted for is medical acumen. Humble, he heals some of the biggest name athletes on the planet and yet into his life steps an unconventional whirlwind from which there is no turning back.
Among the strong cast is NBA superstar Lebron James, who doesn’t do a bad job as Hader’s good mate and the unlikely source of his romantic inspiration. Tennis great Chris Evert also appears in a cameo.
Some names I haven’t mentioned are WWE powerhouse John Cena as Schumer’s muscle-bound boyfriend, who is unaware of her wandering eye. Mike Birbiglia (The Fault in Our Stars) plays Kim’s rather boring husband and Erza Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is a curious intern at the magazine where Schumer works.
I fell hard for Trainwreck, which doesn’t put a foot wrong and keeps on giving throughout its two hours. It has much in common with Apatow’s other material, both as director and producer. Think Superbad and Bridesmaids as well as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up). Ribald, salacious humour done well is a source of much mirth and merriment and so it should be. Trainwreck bears testament to that and I consider it Apatow’s finest work to date. I say that because it is consistently good. So, please don’t let the title put you off as it is a total misnomer.
As for Schumer, once you see her in action, you won’t forget her in a hurry … if ever.
Rated MA, Trainwreck scores an 8½ out of 10.
Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, LeBron James and Brie Larson
Release Date: 6 August 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television