GESTATING JESTER

Schumer holds noth­ing back in re­veal­ing the joys and tri­als of preg­nancy

Chicago Sun-Times - - WEEKEND PLUS - BY RICHARD ROEPER, MOVIE COLUM­NIST rroeper@sun­times.com | @RichardERo­eper

Amy Schumer is a preg­nant movie and TV star who is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing nau­sea un­like any­thing we usu­ally see preg­nant women en­dure in the movies or on TV.

As Schumer points out in the three-part HBO Max bio-doc “Ex­pect­ing Amy,” in the movies, the hero­ine ex­pe­ri­ences some nau­sea at home in the morn­ing or at work, dashes off to the bath­room for a dis­creet bit of throw­ing up, sub­se­quently learns she’s ex­pect­ing — and that’s the end of the morn­ing sick­ness por­tion of the preg­nancy. In Schumer’s real life, from al­most the mo­ment she learned she was hav­ing a baby, she started throw­ing up, and kept throw­ing up — some­times for hours at a time. It’s like hav­ing food poi­son­ing all the time, Schumer ex­plains, and we be­lieve it, and we feel for her, even more so af­ter Amy is di­ag­nosed with hy­per­eme­sis gravi­darum, which causes se­vere nau­sea, vom­it­ing, weight loss and de­hy­dra­tion.

Like many (in­clud­ing this viewer), Schumer had never even heard of the con­di­tion un­til the di­ag­no­sis — but with cam­eras record­ing what some­times feels like ev­ery wak­ing mo­ment of the ar­du­ous and ex­haust­ing jour­ney, Schumer leans on her bot­tom­less sup­ply of quick wit and sol­dierthroug­h-this hu­mor, as well as a loyal team of sup­port­ers led by her hus­band, as she copes with the phys­i­cal and emo­tional roller­coaster she’s rid­ing, and con­tin­ues to tour the coun­try, de­liver a pod­cast and work on a stand-up spe­cial for Net­flix.

As one would ex­pect, so to speak, “Ex­pect­ing Amy” is a funny, frank, open book of a doc­u­men­tary — sort of like a stand-up­comic ver­sion of “Truth or Dare,” only with the lead wear­ing a sweat­pants in­stead of stilet­tos, and the man be­hind the woman a reg­u­lar guy in a stock­ing cap as op­posed to War­ren Beatty. With a com­bi­na­tion of stan­dard, fly-on-the-wall doc­u­men­tary footage blended with self-shot, am­a­teur clips by Schumer and her hus­band, Chris Fis­cher, it’s a treat to see how Schumer and her cre­ative team work out the de­tails of a rou­tine, from in­ti­mate sets at small clubs such as the Com­edy Cel­lar through big-ticket venues such as the Chelsea at the Cos­mopoli­tan in Las Ve­gas — all with an

eye to­ward a Net­flix spe­cial to be recorded at the Chicago The­atre. Schumer’s rou­tines might seem like ca­sual ob­ser­va­tions when she’s on­stage, but as is the case with Jerry Se­in­feld and Chris Rock and so many other top-tier comics, nearly ev­ery turn of phrase, ev­ery bit of phys­i­cal business, has been finely honed through con­stant rewrites and dozens of per­for­mances.

Lots of funny stuff — but there’s also a ton of drama, most promi­nently but not lim­ited to Schumer’s ex­haust­ing and dif­fi­cult preg­nancy. (Spoiler alert: She gives birth to a healthy baby boy, Gene, and yes, the cam­eras are there right un­til the mo­ment of de­liv­ery and im­me­di­ately there­after.) We learn Amy’s mother, who has been mar­ried four times, left her fa­ther, who has MS, when Amy was a lit­tle girl.

While Schumer’s hus­band, a renowned chef, is in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive and lit­er­ally there with Schumer on nearly plane ride, ev­ery con­cert stop and ev­ery mo­ment at home, there are mo­ments when he can be in­fu­ri­at­ingly ob­sti­nate, as when he keeps check­ing his phone while driv­ing, even as his preg­nant wife grows more and more frus­trated and an­gry, de­servedly so. Chris also has rather … odd re­ac­tions to cer­tain emo­tional mo­ments. His fa­ther ex­plains he’s been like this his whole life — but it’s only now, dur­ing the course of film­ing, that Chris is di­ag­nosed with Asperger’s Syn­drome.

Schumer works Chris’ con­di­tion — and some em­bar­rass­ing de­tails about their re­la­tion­ship — into her rou­tines. He’s fine with it, un­til he’s not fine with it. They have a heated con­ver­sa­tion in their kitchen that’s so in­ti­mate we al­most feel bad about lis­ten­ing in — but of course it’s Amy’s and Chris’ de­ci­sion to in­clude that footage in the film.

“Ex­pect­ing Amy” doesn’t try to hide the cir­cum­stances of Schumer’s life. Yes, she walks around in a big gi­ant parka and she some­times takes the train. (There’s a telling mo­ment on the sub­way when an ob­nox­ious troll takes her photo and Schumer calls him out, and he’s even more ob­nox­ious when she en­gages with him.) But she also trav­els via pri­vate jet, and lives in an enor­mous pent­house on the Up­per West Side, has a sup­port team ca­ter­ing to her ev­ery need and can af­ford the best med­i­cal care. That doesn’t make her con­di­tion any less ex­cru­ci­at­ing, her fears any less pal­pa­ble, her rock-bot­tom mo­ments any less dark — and her un­bri­dled ex­hil­a­ra­tion upon meet­ing her son any less real.

NET­FLIX

A preg­nant Amy Schumer per­forms at the Chicago The­atre in De­cem­ber 2018.

HBO MAX

Footage from “Ex­pect­ing Amy” shows hus­band Chris Fis­cher, a chef, help­ing Amy Schumer through her preg­nancy.

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