Release date: 14 August 2015
Running time: 125 min
Director: Judd Apatow
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, John Cena, Vanessa Bayer, Tilda Swinton, LeBron James
Arriving on a tidal-wave of hype from the States, it’s hard to believe that comic Amy Schumer was almost unknown in the UK before the press tour for her pet project Trainwreck. A veteran of the stand-up circuit with her own sketch show Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central, she might not be a house-hold name just yet but her act has been polished to perfection. With Schumer on writing and acting duties, Judd Apatow may be at the helm but this is most definitely her movie; dominating the material with an incredible confidence for her first leading (or indeed any significant) film role.
After her father lectures her about the unrealistic limitations of monogamy as a child, Amy grows up to be a promiscuous and perpetually single career-woman. Completely unapologetic for her hedonistic lifestyle, she works as a journalist for horrendous lads mag ‘S’nuff’ and has an on-off relationship with body-builder Steven (John Cena in an inspired bit of casting). When her nightmare boss Dianna (the unrecognisable Tilda Swinton) assigns her an article against her will, Amy must meet with successful sports doctor Aaron (Hader) to write her piece when the two become romantically entangled.
It’s a fairly standard rom-com set-up, yet this feels refreshing even beyond having a (very funny) female lead. The first influence that springs to mind is undoubtedly Bridget Jones, however the likes of female led stoner-comedy Broad City and the hugely successful Bridesmaids are also clear -and welcome- to see. Whereas Bridge was always completely at the mercy of the men in her life, Amy couldn’t care less about who she sleeps with, and the sex is always on her terms. Playing the tradiotnal role of the man, she takes and and gets what she wants, when she wants. For this reason she is not hugely likeable, but then she needn’t have to be.
Frustratingly the same issues of class and race which also surrounded HBO’s Girls a few years ago are still present: namely that Amy is a successful white woman living in a presentable apartment in Manhattan, with no non-white friends to speak of (although this is the basis of a semi-successful joke). It does make her slightly more infuriating than she needs to be, and at times her selfishness tests the patience. This is partially the point, what with it being incredibly rare to see a woman revelling in being the romantic lead and an unapologetic bastard, but it does feel slightly on the wrong side of mean-spirited at times.
At around half an hour too long Trainwreck also begins to get tiresome, but when it’s on-point there are plenty of genuine laughs. One scene in particular sums up Schumer’s comedy perfectly. A mid-movie romantic montage culminates in Amy and Aaron sitting on the bench once occupied by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan. In voice-over, Amy ruminates ‘I think this is where Woody Allen first met Soon-Yi’, before leaning down to unzip Aaron’s fly. In one sequence, Schumer takes one of cinema’s most enduring images and takes it for her own, whilst undermining one of New York’s most celebrated filmmakers. Like a run-away train, Amy mercilessly mows down everything and everyone in her path; there might be some people hurt along the way, but there’s no denying that the sight is impressive.