Subversive stand-up Amy Schumer is about to become a seriously big deal. Highlights from her sketch show keep going viral – if you haven’t seen her One Direction parody ‘Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup’, YouTube it immediately – and this September, she’s been booked to open for Madonna at Madison Square Garden. But it’s Trainwreck, a fresh and fearless comedy film that she wrote for herself to star in, that’s set to make the New Yorker a household name.
Schumer plays Amy Townsend, a Manhattan-based magazine journalist who’s basically an exaggerated version of herself: frank, funny and fiercely unapologetic about sex. By day, Amy works for an awful fictional lads’ mag called S’NUFF where meetings yield pitches for articles like Are You Really Gay – Or Is She Just Boring?. By night, she drinks heavily, smokes weed and frequently cheats on her boring musclebound boyfriend (professional wrestler/actor John Cena). However, when she’s sent to interview unexpectedly charming sports surgeon Dr Aaron Conners (Saturday Night Live‘s Bill Hader), Amy finds herself questioning the dubious message that her adulterous father drummed into her as a child: “Monogamy is unrealistic.”
At this point, Trainwreck morphs into a more traditional romantic comedy. But with “gross out” specialist Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) directing, it’s still a long way from Sleepless In Seattle. Amy’s journey towards monogamy takes a wrong turn when she goes out drinking with S’NUFF’s underage intern Donald (We Need To Talk About Kevin‘s Ezra Miller), and she has trouble reining in her drink and drug intake. Even when Schumer’s script gets sentimental about family, it’s made abundantly clear that Amy could never settle down in the suburbs like her pregnant younger sister Kim (Brie Larson, 21 Jump Street).
Trainwreck has a few gags that don’t land, paticularly an unfunny send-up of a pretentious indie film which squanders a cameo from Daniel Radcliffe. But for most of its two-hour running time, it’s a total blast. Schumer, fantastically watchable in her first major film role, is well supported by the likeable Hader and a scene-stealing Tilda Swinton, who disguises herself with a tan and glossy haircut as Amy’s awesomely vulgar editor. Professional basketball player LeBron James is also impressive playing Aaron’s best friend, a fictionalised and surprisingly stingy version of himself.
Schumer’s skyrocketing popularity means that Trainwreck is bound to be analysed to death in the coming weeks: her feminist credentials are already being called into question, and one British broadsheet recently ran a column accusing her – though not the film specifically – of having “a shockingly large blind spot around race”. But at its core, this is a successful big screen debut from an undeniable comic talent.