Life & Beth

By Joanna Langfield

Amy Schumer’s new dramady is a bit of a mess. It should be. It’s about life. And, you know, Beth.

If you know anything about Schumer’s actual life, and she has been very open about quite a bit of it, it’s pretty clear that Beth is a somewhat fictionalized version of Amy, herself. As she has from the very beginning, Schumer doesn’t pretty things up here, she looks at Beth’s life for what it is: a slick success. But when Beth’s mother suddenly dies, it’s time for taking stock, clearing the brush during a rite of passage that’s never an efficiently clean sweep for anybody.

I not only respect but grew to enjoy the itchy tone Schumer and her co-writers and directors allow. There are plenty of laughs, but they’re earned, not easy to digest, mainstream kind of stuff. Which, as I see it, makes the victories Beth achieves all the more rewarding. No silver platters here. Life can be a bitch. So can Beth. But we root for her anyway.

There are some terrific supporting players who are a treat to watch. Violet Young, as the young Beth, does a beautiful job making us believe she could grow up to be Schumer, but delivers work with an integrity of its own. Laura Benanti almost literally shines as the mother so key in Beth’s life and I can’t wait to see more of Susannah Flood, who makes the most of her unwritten role as Beth’s sister. Loved Jonathan Groff, who pops up as the guy who looks great at first glance, but it is Michael Rapaport, whose nuanced performance as Beth’s father, who stole my heart. Well, he and Michael Cera, who is wonderfully fascinating as Beth’s love interest.

This series isn’t light hearted, but it’s full of heart. It’s not charming, but it wins us over. Even though it looks rough around the edges, it’s wise and uncompromising. I’m glad there’s a place for it, just the way it is.