The Amy of Trainwreck is a mildly autobiographical version of the real Amy Schumer. Schumer has spoken about how the hypersexualization she’s known for (both in the movie and in her comedy persona) is an exaggeration of herself. Beyond that, though, made it clear that this, her first film, is intimately, if loosely, autobiographical. Trainwreck Amy was conditioned by her father (Colin Quinn) to reject monogamy as an unrealistic idea, so as an adult, she keeps her romantic life as unromantic as possible, engaging almost exclusively in one night stands. The closest thing she has (or wants) to a relationship is a super beefy dude (John Cena) she can take to the movies and use as a proxy for starting fights with randos. This won’t-settle-down, untamable unromantic character is nothing new to the romcom world, but it is, if not the first time, at least highly unusual for this to be our female lead. The entire movie is a series of tropes we know, flipped on their heads. Now, when you hear that concept— the flipping of romcom gender norms— does your mind immediately shoot straight to assuming this is a satire? Mine did. That seems the obvious route, and yet this movie couldn’t be more straightforwardly honest in its view of love and sex. Sure, some tropes are played to maximum comedy, like casting LeBron James as LeBron James to play the male lead’s BFF sounding board. (Who, by the way, turns out to be most surprising and impressive part of the entire movie.) But overall, this flipping of norms— or at least movie norms— isn’t a commentary on anything. It’s just a story of a woman trying to make her shit work, just like the rest of us.
The story here is fairly by-the-numbers. Woman doesn’t want relationship. Woman meets man (Bill Hader) who does want relationship. Woman and man have love and complications. Yada yada yada, you know the drill. What sets this apart isn’t its formula— that known formula only serves to shine a spotlight on what it does within its own structure. The relationship Amy has with her family (played to perfection by Colin Quinn— a thing I never thought I’d say— and Brie Larson) is fluctuating and complicated. Schumer set the film in New York, like most romantic comedies, but this is a (hilariously) dirty, realistic, definitely magical but also kind of shitty version of the city we don’t often see in this genre. And most importantly, Amy Schumer and Bill Hader are a couple you never want to stop watching. Individually, they’re hilarious and lovably flawed, but together they have a chemistry that is out of this world bananas.
What Schumer really gives us here is a painfully honest portrait of a person finding herself. When her relationship goes through those late-second act bumps (which aren’t really spoilers, because you know the formula here, right?), Amy finds her whole life shifting. Her once totally fulfilling life is suddenly anything but. Her family is in a patch of distanced weirdness, her work life is nothing but a drain, and her sexual hookups… well, let’s just say those start to be more trouble than they’re worth. What’s so impressive about this movie, though, is that it manages to avoid the expected slut shame you would expect from these changes. Amy doesn’t have a *grand realization* that she’s wasted her whorish life being a filthy trollop. She just… changes. Like we all change. Her choices weren’t wrong, they just aren’t what fits her anymore. And that evolution is handled with such a light touch that it’s natural and beautiful, and a subtly realistic reflection of what we all go through with every new development in our lives. Combine all of that with a sort of brilliance in direction that we haven’t seen from Judd Apatow in I don’t know how long, and a supporting cast rounded out by none other than fantastical terror-goddess Tilda Swinton, and the word I really want to use— masterpiece— doesn’t seem too far out of line.
‘Trainwreck’ premiered at SXSW and opens in theaters July 17th.
Vivian Kane would like LeBron James to play her in her eventual biopic, please.