Amy Schumer’s ‘Life & Beth’ Is as Trite as Its Title
Amy Schumer has reclaimed the spotlight. The rare female comedian to land on Hollywood’s A-list, she dominated the mid-2010s with the groundbreaking sketch show Amy SchumerThe best-selling memoir, as well as a series of smash movies. Schumer’s rise to fame has been accompanied by a slew of hits movies and a memoir. But the self-deprecating, feminist humor that was her forte is now tame enough. Is she able to recapture the zeitgeist of her youth? The Oscars will present a test for her, as she co-hosts with Wanda Sykes (Regina Hall) later in the month. But first, on March 18, she’ll unveil Life & BethShe created the Hulu drama “The Script,” which she stars in and wrote and directed.
The show’s premise, like its title, is both indistinct and somewhat trite. Fast approaching 40, Schumer’s Beth has managed to create a pretty nice life for herself. Along with her handsome superstar-salesman boyfriend Matt (Kevin Kane), she works in a wine business. She shares an apartment in Manhattan. To her high school friends in Long Island, who refer to “the city” in tones of hushed reverence, this is what success looks like. But she isn’t really happy. Beth’s family is no help: her mom (Laura Benanti) has no boundaries; her dad (Michael Rapaport) is, for all practical purposes, out of the picture; and she only calls her angry younger sister, Ann (Susannah Flood), when she wants to complain about them.
Beth has to face unanticipated tragedies in order to quit sleepwalking, and start reevaluating her life. Back in her childhood home, she dips into diaries that reveal a kid marinating in the shame of her parents’ divorce, the family’s money problems, and her own developing body. Schumer tells these stories through extensive flashbacks, drawing parallels between young Beth’s (Violet Young) humiliations and grownup Beth’s suppressed emotions. She is working in a vineyard when she meets John, a disarmingly straight farmer (a patchily bearded Michael Cera).
Amy Schumer, left, and Violet Young in ‘Life & Beth’
Life & Beth isn’t a catastrophe. There are scenes that would’ve made clever InsideOne sketch: An MRI tech acts as a DJ for his captive audience. Benanti, Rapaport create convincingly chaotic parents. Cera is a different type of lead in rom-coms.
However, this was not the case with some of the most popular shows. Inside’s mantle, such as FleabagAnd HacksThis is because it lacks a sense of purpose. That’s not to say it sets its stakes too low. The best TV series are those that focus on slice-of life programs about women who navigate middle age. Things that are betterYou can find more information here Progress in WorkYou can find more information here Someone Somewhere (starring Schumer’s friend Bridget Everett). What’s missing, here, is a unifying sensibility. These inconsistencies can be glaring. Life & Beth’s tone lurches from realistic to absurd and back; relatively normal characters suddenly devolve into off-the-wall caricatures. Flashbacks framed as life-altering ordeals often read as normal teen baggage—a particular problem at a time when TV is saturated with parallel timelines and trauma plots. The pieces just don’t add up to a satisfying whole.
Too often in the age of content churn, series go into production with undercooked premises and scripts crying out for another—if not a first—round of revisions. Maybe that’s because pay-TV execs think a famous face like Schumer’s (or Steve Carell’s in Space Force, or Nicole Kidman’s in The UndoingIt will attract subscribers. A lot of the time, they’re right. It’s a shame, though, that as shows with star power behind them proliferate, shows that play like complete statements get harder to find.
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