For decades I was a devoted television viewer, faithfully devouring series galore. That pattern largely began to fade away in the early 2000s when Sex And The City waved goodbye to its audience, followed by NYPD Blue. Since the final Blue episode in 2005 I’ve had trouble following series religiously. Instead I’ve watched some movies and sports and have done tons of channel surfing, of which I’ve become a master.
As a dial-flipper, how could I not know about Amy Schumer? I’ve caught fragments of her Comedy Central series and a few minutes of a standup special. I thought she was funny. But I had no idea just how funny and talented she is till recently when my wife Sandy and I headed north to the Regal multiplex in Doylestown, PA to take in the Schumer-penned and Schumer-starring Trainwreck. If you are a fan of robustly foul-mouthed and sex-obsessed comedic vehicles loaded with did-he/she-really-say-that repartee, then Trainwreck is for you.
The setup: Schumer plays Amy Townsend, sexually active to the max and commitment-phobic. Amy T’s not looking for Mr Right. She’s just looking for the next one night stand, and has no trouble finding him after him after him. She’s a boozer, a pot smoker and looks at life with a most wary eye. Yet she also maintains a strong career as a magazine writer, turning out outlandish copy aimed at men for the slick and glossy no-conscience publication S’Nuff. In one scene Amy T and a few other writers are in a meeting with their Julie Christie look-alike editor-in-chief, portrayed by an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton. Townsend and her peers are pitching story ideas. Schumer’s crazily crude and politically-incorrect script shines here. How about “Where Are They Now? A Look At The Boys Michael Jackson Paid Settlements To” one of Townsend’s coworkers posits. “You’re Not Gay, She’s Boring” lobs another. Yup, I was slapping my knees during this sequence. Schumer had the funny stuff coming pretty consistently all movie long.
This is a movie where the plot almost doesn’t matter, but of course there is a plot and it’s fun. Bill Hader co-stars as a sports medicine titan, Aaron Conners, a physician who has revolutionized the arts of knee and hip and who knows what other surgeries, allowing professional athletes and working stiffs to return quickly and productively to their careers. One of his best friends is LeBron James. He also is pals with the lesser-known b-baller Amar’e Stoudamire. Amy T is assigned to write a story about Aaron for S’Nuff. She interviews him at his office, and her goofily charming side peeks through. Aaron is smitten. He invites her to lunch and, her defenses starting to melt, they begin to see one another a bit. Will Amy T put aside her wayward ways and join forces fully with the good doctor? Well, I’m not telling. No spoiler alerts here.
Judd Apatow, he of The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up fame, directed Trainwreck. A few reviewers have noted that Apatow’s movies tend to go on too long. Probably that’s true. Trainwreck might have benefited if it went under Aaron Conners’ knife to eliminate 10 or 15 minutes of cinematic flab. Truth be told, though, Trainwreck’s length (two hours and five minutes) didn’t bother me at all. I’m granting three out of four stars to the Schumer-Apatow farce.
A few notes of amazement: Who’d have thunk that professional athletes would bring so much brio and presence to Trainwreck? They do. Turns out that LeBron James has a mighty gift for comedic acting. He receives plenty of screen time and stands toe to toe with everybody in his scenes. He’s got the pacing, the vocal inflections, the confidence. I’ll say the same and more for John Cena, a famous pro wrestler about whom I know almost nothing. He is absolutely hilarious as one of Amy’s suitors, a complicated and sensitive and sexually uncertain muscle guy whom Amy is toying with. Except for Schumer, he gives maybe the best show of anyone in the cast.
And a few mild gripes: LeBron James, a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers in real life and in Trainwreck, is never in Cleveland in this Manhattan-set flick. How come? The movie takes place during basketball season as far as I could tell. And one might think that Aaron Conners, a celebrated doctor for not only his work with athletes but also his donated time to countless Doctors Without Borders projects, would have an ungodly busy work schedule. In Trainwreck he’s kind of a slacker. Cafes and restaurants, gymnasiums, Amy’s apartment . . . Aaron spends far more time elsewhere than on the job.
In the end, little matter. Go with the flow, with the laughs, with the human insights that also are a large part of Trainwreck’s fabric. Amy Schumer deserves to be proud of what she has achieved here as an actor and a screenwriter.
(Photo by Sandra Cherrey Scheinin. If you click on the photo a larger image will open)
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