As fiercely clever and proudly profane as Amy Schumer’s Comedy Central show has been this season, there can be something a little self-serving in her humor. Over and over again, the punchlines come at her own expense—how she drinks too much, sleeps around too much, and doesn’t conform to Hollywood’s size 0 ideal. But it’s hard to tell whether she actually believes what she’s saying or if it’s all an act, a way of winning the audience over through self-deprecation. That’s a pretty tricky tightrope to walk, but Schumer has managed to walk it with the skill and fearlessness of a Wallenda. Now she’s parlaying her deliriously dirty postfeminist brand of feminism into a bid for movie stardom in Judd Apatow’s new comedy, Trainwreck. If the gambit works (and the film’s so sharp and funny, it’s impossible that it won’t), the mind reels at how Schumer will deal with big-screen success in her shock-therapy stand-up act. After all, how do you take a shiv to Hollywood’s sexism and size 0 piggishness after you’ve become its latest darling?
That’s probably a question for another day. So for now let’s just say that Schumer’s star turn in Trainwreck (which she also wrote) is one of the freshest and filthiest coming-out parties in a while. Rather than toning down her prickly persona to conform to the studio cookie cutter, she stays true to what makes her laugh. You get the sense that she’s someone who’d rather break than bend. Schumer plays Amy, an irresponsible good-time gal who, thanks to her caddish father (Colin Quinn), lives by a shared belief that “monogamy isn’t realistic.” Unlike her married and pregnant sister (Brie Larson), she fears romantic commitment the same way she fears last call. When Amy’s not hooking up with sketchy guys or tottering home in heels while shielding daylight from her bloodshot eyes, she works as a writer at a men’s magazine. Then, one particularly hungover day, her editor (Tilda Swinton channeling Meryl Streep channeling Anna Wintour) assigns her to profile a hotshot sports physician to the stars (Bill Hader). After a first date that leads to the bedroom (actually, his couch), she discovers to her own shock and disbelief that she’s found a good guy she actually likes—and who likes her back. Will she sabotage the relationship before it starts or finally grow up and pull herself out of her selfish, soused rut?
Trainwreck isn’t so radical that it subverts the formulaically feel-good ending implied in its setup. Beneath all of his bad-boy shtick, Apatow’s always been a pretty conventional moralist. But Schumer gives their raunchy rom-com enough of her signature spikiness to prevent it from ever feeling predictable. She’s created a decidedly new kind of screwball heroine—one who isn’t ashamed of screwing, or screwing up. B+