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What a week for female-centric American comedy. There can be different meanings or understandings of the word “babe”. At times in Trainwreck Amy Schumer, the TV comedian/writer now turned feature film star/scenarist, looks like a giant baby who has jumped out of a pram to scare the (male) world. You could think of Trainwreck — she would probably like you to — as a one-woman revenge mission. The round, full-cheeked face, small bright eyes and mischief-primped mouth form an infant-shaped pouring vessel for the scandalising humour and attack-feminism she dispenses on Comedy Central.
The film is often hysterical in the best sense. Not just funny-hysterical, its script bubbling with bad-girl one-liners, but hysterical with an edge of funky, missionary outreach and outrage; as if Schumer is rounding up other reasonable, rebel women to chorus: “I can be provoked so far by male and other stupidities, but no further.”
Not just men are targeted. The media world, pop press division, gets the first bashing. Tilda Swinton, barely recognisable in a harpy blow-dry, has a terrific cameo as Schumer’s girl-magazine boss: a raspy Brit with a gutter London accent. She squashes her employee’s proposed anti-sports article like a bug — “We’ve decided to go with Ugliest Celebrity Kids under Six” — and later takes a caring 60 seconds to fire her.
Trainwreck has it in for any institution (hospitals, workplaces, old folks’ homes) trying to humble a simple, honest, promiscuous working-girl heroine. The film is all for intelligent mutiny. “After 11 it turns into Caligula around this place”, pronounces with happy censure her libertine father, living in an anything-goes retirement home. When dad dies, Schumer’s funeral address honours him with the tone of loving insult he liked to dispense: “He was racist, homophobic . . . he was a drunk,” before briefly getting to the good bits, then the maudlin.
That her character gets choked with tears in this scene is typical of Trainwreck. It mixes comedy and pathos without ever poisoning the whole cocktail. Directed by Judd Apatow as if his recent debacles had never happened (This is 40, Funny People), the film even has a romcom love plot that works. “Dr” Bill Hader as the heroine’s whitecoated Mr Right gets the parodic pelting required from other characters — “Boring!” snaps mag boss Swinton of Schumer’s intended cover boy — before the movie dares a happy ending fit to out-kitsch An Officer and a Gentleman.