Amy Schumer is having a pretty good year. Somewhat surprisingly for longtime followers of her take-no-prisoners stand-up, it can seem like we are in a moment of pure Schumer-vision: all Schumer, all the time.
Her smartly raunchy TV show “Inside Amy Schumer” just finished airing its often brilliantly feminist third season; she’s the subject of think pieces. “Trainwreck,” her somewhat mixed collaboration with director/comedy titan Judd Apatow, which screened as a “work in progress” during South By Southwest, is opening this week.
Some of us were hoping that “work in progress” meant the filmmakers were going to trim a bit out of the movie’s two hour-plus running time. Nope.
The trainwreck in question is Amy herself, a hard-drinking, pot-smoking, man-eating magazine writer who enjoys a good hookup — or 30. Her father (Colin Quinn) convinced her at an early age that monogamy wasn’t realistic, and Amy just kind of ran with it. She is refreshingly unapologetic about it, until she is, thanks to luuuv.
Amy works for a let’s-call-it-fake-Esquire who is assigned by her editor (Tilda Swinton, still able to do anything) to write a profile of a sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader).
Aaron is a solid dude, a good sports surgeon and a thoughtful guy who has won the trust of celebrity clients such as LeBron James (who plays himself). It’s nice to see Hader toe the line between straight man and comedic role after his terrific turn in “The Skeleton Twins.”
Aaron is not exactly Amy’s type. She doesn’t care about sports, which she tells him repeatedly. Between that and Amy eventually falling for Aaron, “Trainwreck” reminds you that if there is one subject movies can’t even bring themselves to portray correctly, it’s journalism.
Amy’s current squeeze is Steven (a surprisingly funny John Cena). He’s the sort that gets very upset when you joke about his neck. There is a lot of pounding; take that however you will.
After all, Amy is the sort who is confused and mortified when Aaron has the temerity to call her less then a day after they sleep together — this is not how Amy rolls.
On the other side of Amy’s life is her sister Kim (Brie Larson), married to Tom (Mike Birbiglia), who has a stepson who Kim is raising as her own. Amy objects to all of this, finding Tom unspeakably boring and the son weird. It doesn’t help the family conflict that while Amy finds her father, now struck with multiple sclerosis, a sympathetic figure, Kim still hates him for being a lousy dad.
Can Amy tame her wild — for a woman? — ways and start in on a real relationship?
Of course she will. After all, this is a Judd Apatow movie. That guy elevates the nuclear family in his work as much or more than any director traumatized by his parents’ divorce possibly could.
The jokes in “Trainwreck” are pretty well nonstop, beat after beat of Schumer’s often extremely raw comedy and scenes that look worked out in improvisations. If you have a taste for essentially the same sex joke over and over, which is pretty much the way Schumer’s stand-up works — as opposed to her much more progressive TV show — you will enjoy it. If not, you might doze off. And as various media outlets have pointed out, her jokes on race come off as smug rather than knowing.
Then again, the two-handers between Hader and James are especially funny. I wasn’t expecting a breakout comic role from one of the greatest ever basketball players, but here we are.
But, as you might have noticed from the multiple themes above, Apatow’s movies are perpetually too long, with characters a little too thin to justify the length. Amy could have decided to stop sleeping around in under 100 minutes, easy; the movie’s bagginess takes its toll.
The sexual politics, on the other hand, feel, how to put this … a little muddled. Expect acres of Internet column inches on Amy’s movement from hedonism to, well, whatever she is up to at the end. It’s part of our Schumer moment, and like the rest of her comedy, don’t expect it to be tidy, even when it tries to be.
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson
Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use
Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Theaters: Alamo Lakeline, Alamo Lakeline, Alamo Slaughter, Alamo South, Cinemark Cedar Park, Cinemark Galleria, Cinemark Round Rock, Cinemark Southpark Meadows, Cinemark Stone Hill Center, Domain, EVO, Flix Brewhouse, Highland, Lakeline Mall, Moviehouse & Eatery, Starplex, Tinseltown Austin, Tinseltown Pflugerville, Violet Crown