by Elizabeth Stoddard
These days it seems that if you want to see more complicated female characters in Hollywood movies, you have to write them yourself. At least, that’s what comedian Amy Schumer did with Trainwreck, the new film from director Judd Apatow.
Her self-named character — Amy Townsend, in this case — sleeps around, regularly visits her ailing father (Colin Quinn, SNL) in assisted care, keeps up a strained relationship with her younger sister (Brie Larson, Short Term 12), and writes for a lad mag in New York City. Amy searches for sexual fulfillment in one-night stands, and is often stoned or drunk while doing so. Unlike the female lead in your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, Amy contains multitudes.
Her growing feelings for cute sports doctor Aaron (Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins) serve as a sort of impetus for her to look at her choices — and offers a reason to subvert the usual cutesy falling-in-love montages. Hader and Schumer share some sweet moments in this often raunchy comedy. The audience follows Amy’s heartbreaks and mistakes through her own sporadic narration.
Her dealings with her family are given equal weight as the love story. Larson’s Kim (who shares a name with Schumer’s sister IRL) plays well against Amy, regretting the pricey home they set their father up in, given his treatment of their now-dead mother. It is fairly explicitly explained to the viewer that Amy’s father’s warnings about monogamy have stuck with her and led to her current situation.
Tilda Swinton plays Amy’s brash editor, nigh unrecognizable with a tan and Cockney accent, and appears in an early scene with a young intern played by Ezra Miller. This threw me because of their mother and creepy son characters in We Need to Talk about Kevin. But this casting is just about as distracting as the many, many cameos in Trainwreck — they’re either former/current SNL cast members or random sports figures (Tony Romo, really?!?).
LeBron James is cast as himself, in a fictional universe where the basketball star is a close friend to Aaron and a buddy to watch Downton Abbey and shot hoops with. This ensures laughs whenever he shows up onscreen, poking fun at himself and the audience’s preconceptions about him.
There is much that is winning about Trainwreck — the crass sharpness of Schumer’s screenplay, the silly chemistry between Aaron and Amy, the known entities playing against type (John Cena as a former boyfriend fits in this category along with James) — so I can look past the scenes that play like standup monologues or the gross-out humor that usually bothers me. As someone who has only seen one Apatow movie before this (This Is 40, thanks to a friend’s friend who gave us free tickets), I can’t speak to recurring stylistic notions or how Trainwreck fits into his body of work. I’ll just note that this film seems to belong to Amy Schumer more than anyone else involved… and that’s certainly not a bad thing.