Trainwreck, the highly anticipated comedy from director Judd Apatow and star and writer Amy Schumer—which premiered last night at SXSW, where we saw it—begins with what has to be the one of the most punishing walks of shame in hookup history.
Confused as to where the hell she is after waking up in a guy's bed one morning, Schumer looks out the window to see Manhattan in the distance. Just as unsettling is the smiling, eager face of her one-night stand, who informs her that she's in Staten Island. Now she must negotiate the borough's cracked sidewalks in last night's stiletto heels and tightly wrapped skirt before hopping onto the ferry, where she leans over the railing in a graceless imitation of Jack and Rose in Titantic.
But there's no shame in Schumer's walk, which is kind of the point of Trainwreck, and why as the camera pans away from her majestic early morning boat ride, the film's title appears in bolded block letters across the screen. This is Schumer's careening, hookup-happy life epitomized, and if we didn't know what we were in for already, we do now.
As its title suggests, Trainwreck centers on Schumer's adventures as an unrepentant serial dater (also named Amy), although calling what she does "dating" is a stretch. Her reputation for "oh, well" promiscuity has been well-developed through both her standup and her Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer, but in Trainwreck she not only wears this reputation with pride—toppling just about every relationship-based gender stereotype rom-coms have been pummeling into the cultural consciousness for decades in the process—she does it in the most hilarious, dynamic, and, ultimately poignant way possible.
Inspired by a monologue about the pitfalls of monogamy delivered to her and her sister (Brie Larson) in a flashback by their father (Colin Quinn), Amy has turned sleeping around into an art form. She assigns no emotional significance to any of her encounters, going through the motions of disrobing and getting it on with the enthusiasm of someone ordering a sandwich. This is the life she leads and there are no surprises. Men exist for one reason, and Amy uses them for this express purpose before discarding them.
Doting hookups try to make her breakfast only to her disgust. When an attractive date invites her to a concert later in the week, she turns down the request with the awkward clumsiness we're used to seeing from men trying to avoid a second date after a one-night stand. She's vulgar and sex-obsessed, and uses every opportunity to thwart stereotypes of what women want. She complains that a guy's dick is too big and that another goes down on her too much. When she and her sister find an old picture of their mother and stare at it lovingly, the first thing out of her mouth is, "Mom was so fuckable then."
Schumer's character's charms are cast into even sharper focus by the comic sensitivity of the film's principal male cast members. When the movie begins she's in a quasi-relationship with a workout-crazed meathead played by wrestler John Cena, whose chiseled body is on full display throughout. They go on dates, they hook up, but as with all of her relationships, the onscreen Amy is coldly distant (and usually either high or drunk). Cena's character wants something more, though, and in one scene when he's pressing Amy to commit, he pleads to her with lines that could have been pulled verbatim from so many other romantic comedies—or, better, real life—in which it's the woman and not the man who pines to settle down and start a family. But in Trainwreck, it's Amy who must be tamed, and she's able to effortlessly bring even the most hulking archetype of machismo to his knees.
Though some were skeptical about Cena, one of the film's most surprising performance comes from LeBron James, who plays a hilariously caring, sensitive version of himself. Bill Hader, Schumer's ultimate love interest, is a sports surgeon she's profiling for a magazine, and James is his best friend and confidant. His role is larger than anyone could have imagined, and his performance is certainly the best and most substantial foray into acting we've seen from a sports superstar of his magnitude.
When we first see James, he's bursting into Hader's office, fretting about when they're going to watch Downton Abbey, as he doesn't want to go into practice the next day and hear all the guys talking about what happened if he hasn't seen it. He continues to reappear throughout the film as the token friend providing unsolicited emotional support for Hader, who also wants to settle down, just not as psychotically as Cena. James asks Hader if he and Amy have "made love" yet; he warns him about getting hurt; and, in maybe his most impressive moment in the film, he expresses concern that Amy may be gold-digging by nonchalantly reciting the lyrics to the famous Kanye West song as if they're his own sage bits of advice.
But for all the ground it breaks, Trainwreck is a relatively formulaic romantic comedy, which is why what it's doing with gender is able to hit home with so much force. All of the stereotypes are there, only the sexes that occupy them are the opposite of what years of film and TV have conditioned us to expect. The two most traditionally feminine roles—the clingy date who wants to settle down and the gossipy best friend—are played by professional athletes who weigh a combined quarter ton and could snap any one of our necks like a stalk of celery.
They all revolve around Schumer's star, though, which shines as brightly as fans of her comedy could have ever hoped for, and then some. Yes, she plays the promiscuous woman about town we all knew she could, but here her character must reconcile this lifestyle with her cantankerous aging father, her married sister she's always at odds with, and, most of all, the unfamiliar territory she finds herself in as she falls for Hader. Schumer is the real deal, and Trainwreck may be both the funniest and most important comedy we've seen in years—Schumer FTW, y'all.
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