Amy Schumer’s character in her new movie, “Trainwreck,” is named Amy. Which isn’t by coincidence or because it was just easier for everyone on set to call the comedian by her real name.
When Schumer set out to write her first feature film, director Judd Apatow told her to write about what was “really up” with her. Not to rely on the raunchy persona she’s developed in her stand-up acts but to “take a look at [her]self.”
What she found wasn’t always pretty. On the surface, Schumer’s character in “Trainwreck” has her act together. She can afford to rent a nice place in New York City and has a relatively prestigious gig as a magazine writer. She’s not lacking for suitors, either -- she beds a different dude practically every night.
But she never really stays with one man for more than a couple of hours. The idea of monogamy repulses her. She is openly disdainful of her sister, who is pregnant and living in the suburbs with her husband. But deep down, she’s envious of that life. Yet she’s trying to put on a happy face for her dad, who is battling multiple sclerosis at a nearby assisted living facility.
“I want to say ‘This poor girl,’ but that’s what’s up,” Schumer said following the premiere of a so-called “work-in-progress” version of the film here on Sunday. "This is me really taking a look at me."
SXSW audiences have a reputation for being generous, but even by their standards, the reception for “Trainwreck” was exceedingly jubilant. The crowd inside the Paramount Theater -- which included “Girls” star Andrew Rannells and “Lego Movie” directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller -- was often laughing so hard that it was difficult to hear the film’s dialogue.
At first, the movie is heavy on comedy. The first time we see Schumer on screen, she’s in her bra and underwear, about to sleep with a guy. The closest thing she has to a boyfriend is a CrossFit freak with an unexpectedly tender heart, hilariously played by WWE star John Cena. But then she meets Dr. Aaron Sommers (Bill Hader), a renown sports doctor who she’s supposed to be profiling for her magazine.
She’s barely begun interviewing him before they sleep together. (P.S.: Really, Hollywood? Another movie about a journalist who sleeps with their subject?) But he wants more than just a one night stand, and when he calls her the day after they have sex, Schumer’s co-worker (Vanessa Bayer) actually threatens to call the police.
Apatow has always had a knack for casting unlikely leading men -- most famously Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up.” But the director really hit it out of the park with Hader, who has done mostly quirky supporting roles since departing “Saturday Night Live.” His doctor is refreshingly earnest and supportive -- he always tells her she’s beautiful, makes an effort to get to know her dad and even prioritizes her pleasure over his own in the bedroom.
Their love story proves to be surprisingly moving, as does Schumer’s relationship with her ailing father. In her own life off-screen, the 33-year-old’s father has MS too -- and she credits him as a big part of the reason she has such a strong sense of self. It was hearing Schumer talk about her upbringing in an interview on Howard Stern’s Sirius radio show a few years ago that Apatow said made him want to work with her.
“I didn’t know anything was possibly wrong with me until I was 30,” Schumer said during a Q&A after the screening. “I feel super-sentimental when I see that girl Sophia Grace on ‘The Ellen [DeGeneres] Show’ -- young girls that think everything is OK. I held on to that longer than most.”
After the screening, she and Apatow popped in to do short stand-up sets at the nearby comedy club Ester’s Follies. Schumer said she was on a high -- and “pretty drunk, if we’re all being real with each other” -- following the premiere. She talked about how after being a bartender and a waitress, she never thought she’d get to make her own movie -- and be the one to actually star in it.
“I thought I’d be on set with, like, a messy bun,” she joked, putting on a nerdy voice.
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