Amy Schumer landed in movies with quite a splash; Trainwrecked and I Feel Pretty were both big star vehicles based firmly around her own self-deprecating persona. Both films were popular, but neither of them quite clicked; there was a feeling that Schumer was compromising something to make a satisfying stand-alone feature, and so it’s perhaps not surprising that she’s followed up with a more free-wheeling, less contrived ten-episode tv show, due next week on Hulu in the US and Disney+ elsewhere.
Episode One is a shocker, not just for Beth (Schumer) but for the audience; what starts as an acerbic, caustic view of a New York wine merchant pushing 40 takes an abrupt turn when Beth hears that her mother (Lauren Benanti) has died in a taxi-crash. Beth gets this news just as she’s preparing to go on-stage at a karaoke club; needless to say, the cover of Ace of Base’s classic The Sign she offers is something of a disaster musically, but then again, it probably would have been anyway. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Beth dumps her boyfriend (Kevin Kane), tries to reforge links with her younger sister (Susannah Flood) and errant father (Michael Rappaport), while also starting a hesitant romance with farmer John (Michael Cera)
How I Met My Husband might be a better title for what follows; Schumer married a chef/farmer several years ago, and Life & Beth seems to dramatize that romance, greatly helped by an untypically brusque turn from Cera. Life & Beth’s short, 30 minute episodes aren’t exactly packed with plot-twists or incident, but there are heartfelt truths, considerable honesty, and also some good laughs; Jonathan Groff has a funny bit as a city-loving yokel, while the DJ/MRI technician featured in the penultimate episode is a hoot, and nicely allows space for some unhappy reflection as Beth tries to figure out what’s important to her.
Beth, perhaps like Schumer, is to singular a character to be fully nailed down; Life & Beth does a good job of making the protagonist comprehensible, even if her short-temper and selfishness sometimes makes her unsympathetic. Life & Beth should satisfy its target audience with some quirky rom-com tropes, but is also Schumer’s most mature work to date, and suggests that she’s developing into a real creative force when it comes to capturing the POV of a woman on the verge of self-discovery.
In the US, all 10 episodes of Life & Beth premiere on Hulu on Friday, March 18th 2022.