HBO’s ‘Expecting Amy,’ ‘Greyhound’ on Apple TV+

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By Richard Roeper

Signal Contributing Writer

‘Expecting Amy’

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, 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 soldier-through-this humor, as well as a loyal team of supporters led by her husband, as she copes with the physical and emotional roller coaster 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-up-comic version of “Truth or Dare,” only with the lead wearing 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 through big-ticket venues — all with an eye toward a Netflix special to be recorded at the Chicago Theatre.

Lots of funny stuff, but there’s also a ton of drama, most prominently but not limited to Schumer’s exhausting and difficult pregnancy.

While Schumer’s husband, a renowned chef, is incredibly supportive and literally there with Schumer on nearly every 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. 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.

“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. 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.

‘Greyhound’

Rated PG-13, Running time: 91 minutes

We are in a posh hotel lobby in San Francisco, December 1941 — just weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Cmdr. Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks), USN, in full uniform, springs up when his beloved Evie (Elisabeth Shue) enters. Evie gazes up at the angel on the Christmas tree, and then their eyes meet, and she comes to him.

Ernest tells Evie he’ll be assigned to Jamaica, the Bahamas and Cuba for training before active duty, and he asks Evie to accompany him to the Caribbean so he can propose to her on a beach. Evie says she’d love to, but they should wait to marry until after the war, so they can truly be together.

This early scene in the World War II action drama “Greyhound” is … problematic. Even though the 64-year-old Hanks and the 56-year-old Shue look amazing, we can’t help but wonder: What’s the story with these two characters? They look like a couple who have been together for 30 years, but they’re just now in the courtship stage?

A series of opening title cards sets the stage for this story, which is inspired by true-life events but is actually based on the 1955 novel “The Good Shepherd” by C.S. Forester. “Convoys of ships carrying troops and supplies to Great Britain were crucial to the Allied war effort,” the tale begins, as the intrusive, anachronistic, Michael Bay-esque score starts pounding away at our sensibilities (and rarely lets up throughout the movie).

“The convoys were most vulnerable to U-boats when beyond the range of air cover, in the middle of the Atlantic, in the area known as ‘The Black Pit.’” From time to time thereafter, graphics are employed to reflect communications between air escorts and ships, between ships, etc., and also to identify various ships and subs we see from a distance. It’s as if the filmmakers realized they’re delivering a muddled effort and they’re doing everything they can to help us understand what’s transpiring.

Hanks’ Krause is a potentially complex character, given we learn this is his very first command at an age when most of his peers are retiring. We know he’s a man of faith because he pauses for a silent prayer before every meal, no matter how chaotic the surrounding circumstances. But we never find out why it took the Navy so long to entrust Krause with a ship, or why he is perhaps too compassionate and understanding when his men make sometimes fatal mistakes.

Krause remains an enigma to the very end — and yet he’s a fully realized, three-dimensional character compared to the interchangeable supporting players in “Greyhound.”

Hanks’ commitment to honoring the heroes of World War II through his creative partnership with Steven Spielberg is legendary, from “Saving Private Ryan” to “Band of Brothers” to “The Pacific.” They have teamed up to make one of the best movies and two of the best miniseries ever about the second World War. But while “Greyhound” pays great attention to detail and feels authentic, especially in the claustrophobic and intense scenes in the bowels of the ship, the battle sequences that look like something straight out of a video game dominate the movie and keep us at a safe distance from getting emotionally involved on a level this story deserves.

Copyright 2020 Chicago Sun Times

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