Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Amy Schumer
Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Ezra Miller, John Cena, LeBron James, Tilda Swinton, Tim Meadows, Vanessa Bayer, Method Man, Daniel Radcliffe, Leslie Jones, Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei.
Amy Schumer is definitely having quite a moment. Her television series has tapped into a space of the zeitgeist and clips from the show are making the rounds online and gaining viral levels of fame. She hosts award shows. She was just nominated for two Emmys. And now she headlines a movie she even wrote the script for (and receives sole credit for the screenplay). Regardless of how you feel about her, her brand of comedy, or what she has to say, one must respect the level of fame she has achieved – especially given that she started out on a reality show.
I haven’t watched her show, but have seen a few clips online from it. They have all impressed me. Whether it’s a bunch of famous funny ladies talking about the sexism and ageism that have come to define Hollywood, a fresh take on Hooters, an indictment of the music industry that continues to insist that women have low self esteem and must be reminded of their beauty even without makeup on, demystifying the trope of the sanctified and re-virginized role of the homemaking wife, or a song reminding men what the real purposes of certain female body parts are.
With a voice this fresh and a take on feminism that is at the same time exciting and hilarious, I was really looking forward to this movie. I can’t stand Judd Apatow’s movies, but he was only directing this film so I assumed his influence would be minimal and that his recurring theme of only directing movies with leads who are stunted men-children would not apply here. Unfortunately I was right. Instead of a man-child I got a female version of the same thing. Schumer plays Amy (creative!), a writer for a magazine that can only be described as the print version of Spike TV: the most sexist and horrifying content that is every woman’s (and decent human being’s) worst nightmare. She is assigned the task to write a piece on a sports doctor played by Bill Hader. Hader’s character, Aaron, is best friends with LeBron James who does his best at playing a version of himself, and has some charm, but mostly feels forced and uneven. Amy’s family is made up of an ill father who has taught her to be non-committal in her relationships and a sister who is all about her marriage and children. Amy and Aaron like each other and the movie takes a bizarre turn. Although it is definitely rated R and has a few raunchy moments, the movie is your run of the mill romantic comedy. It’s not even original about it, it is a predictable formulaic film with nothing new to offer. Not at all what I was expecting from this gifted comedienne. It’s all the weirder because the movie seems to make fun of the romantic comedy genre by including a movie within a movie starring Marisa Tomei and Daniel Radcliffe, yet the joke falls flat and not enough is done to set itself apart from the faux film.
At one point I felt the need to check if Lorne Michaels was a producer of the film, he is not. How else to explain the copious amounts of Saturday Night Live actors that make up the cast? Bill Hader, Vanessa Bayer, Colin Quinn, Pete Davidson, Tim Meadows, Leslie Jones. Some of these choices work, but it’s still bizarre that so many of these actors come from the same show and are not necessarily the best either. Especially Bayer, who plays Amy’s best friend, is not quite ready for movies, as she still has a hard time not overplaying her characters with exaggerated facial expressions and body/verbal ticks.
Was there anything enjoyable about this movie that elevated it in any way? Yes. The answer to that question is the presence of an actor that justifies my viewing of anything she appears in: Tilda Swinton. I hardly recognized her in the role of Amy’s boss at the magazine headquarters. Continuing her trend of disappearing into an unrecognizable role that has been her theme as of late (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Snowpiercer) she once again steps into a role and makes it so completely her own. As always, she is incredible and mesmerizing, especially when playing such a funny and despicable character like that of Dianna in this film.
I’m not really sure about how I feel about this movie. I was promised a trainwreck. I didn’t get one. All I got was a romantic comedy masked as a raunchy comedy that was light on laughs and could have been a whole lot better. Schumer is better than this and hopefully the next time around she will make something worthy of her original and biting voice.