‘Life & Beth’ Review: Amy Schumer Gets Personal Again in a Brilliant Hulu Dramedy

The star mixes humor, heart and a killer lineup of co-stars for one of the best new series of the year

life & beth amy schumer

Some people can’t, and maybe shouldn’t, go home again. But Amy Schumer proves beautifully in her new Hulu dramedy “Life & Beth” that she is not one of those people.

Schumer created, wrote, directed, executive produced and stars in this sincere and vulnerable dramedy that also shows her gift for getting personal as she did in her breakout 2015 film “Trainwreck.” She plays Beth (Schumer’s real middle name; her character in “Trainwreck” was named Amy), a Manhattanite who works at a seemingly enviable job selling wine to some of the city’s swankiest eateries, and living with her seemingly enviable boyfriend Matt (Kevin Kane), the successful champagne salesman at her company.

Matt is the life of the party, while Beth is much more introverted, something she simply accepts about their relationship. Then a shocking event in her family rocks her world, sending her on a trip back to the Long Island community where she grew up. It also prompts her to admit she’s not happy with her life despite what everyone else thinks, and embarks on a journey to find the answers why. They’re unsurprisingly tied to her hometown.

Just as her character’s parents’ marriage in “Trainwreck” impacted “Amy’s” life in the movie (with the focus on her dad), so does the marriage between Beth’s father, Leonard (Michael Rapaport), and her mother, Jane (an always fantastic Laura Benanti) — this time with the focus on Beth’s mom. The mother/daughter relationship has been complicated and sometimes fraught. It’s filled with actions by Jane that made young Beth’s life more difficult than it needed to be, and adult Beth’s life more lonely that it needs to be. Beth acknowledges that for all the chaos her mom brings into her life and that of her sister Ann (Susannah Flood), Jane also loved them, and took care of them, and made their household fun. It is one of the best aspects of Schumer’s writing, from “Inside Amy Schumer” to “Trainwreck” to “Life & Beth” that she treats all of her characters honestly and fairly.

Schumer blends in plenty of humor as well as emotion, specially in exploring Beth’s friendships with her hometown pals. During a girls’ night at a club, Beth meets a handsome meathead of trainer (a hilarious Jonathan Groff) who’s impressed by her only because she lives in Manhattan, which he seems to actually know very little about. The pals end their evening early when they decide the music is too loud, their shoes are too uncomfortable and the local Nordstrom Rack is still open for business.

Another common denominator of Schumer’s projects is the impressive supporting cast she assembles. Pharmacist/comedian Lavar Walker is a scene stealer as Beth’s longtime friend Lavar, a pharmacist whose customers piss him off on a daily basis. Ditto Yamaneika Saunders as Beth’s BFF Maya, and comedian Gary Gulman as Maya’s boyfriend, Shlomo. And a close runner-up to Schumer for the top performance of the series goes to Violet Young as the teenage version of Beth during extended flashbacks. Young is earnest in her reactions to all the teen traumas Beth suffers at home and at school, and thoughtful in telegraphing all the ways they’ll help shape Beth into her future. Murray Hill and David Byrne make surprise appearances too delightful to spoil. 

Another co-star, Michael Cera, plays a crucial role in the series’ success. Beth meets John when she visits the vineyard where he works. They click immediately. He’s got a collection of social tics that includes the inability to whisper, but his quirks don’t seem to trouble him at all. Beth is all self-doubt and unsure about her past, present and future, but John’s acceptance of her, and himself, spurs her to heal her old wounds, and embrace a future that she chooses deliberately instead of by default.

Unlike many of its original series, Hulu will release all 10 episodes of “Life & Beth” at the same time. That means you don’t even have to bother trying to plan a viewing schedule; it’ll be one of your favorite binge watches of the year.

“Life & Beth” premieres March 18 on Hulu.