I Feel Pretty Disappointed
There’s a great movie to be made about a woman’s daily struggles with insecurity, negative body image, and low self-esteem, especially in today’s post-revelatory era of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. And while co-writers/co-directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein do their best to make that movie, their I Feel Pretty not only falls way short, but it quite possibly even worsens the situation by using female body imperfections as punchlines. And to make matters even more dire, those punchlines aren’t very funny.
Schumer broke into Hollywood feature films in a big way back in 2015 with her hilarious turn in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck, so hopes were high that we were witnessing the birth of the next go-to funny lady who would carry on the brilliant comedic legacy of such stalwarts as Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey for a new generation. Yet, after failing to strike gold in last year’s Snatched and again with I Feel Pretty, we’re left wondering just what happened to those high hopes. I’d hate to proclaim that she’s only funny when allowed to romp in R-rated comedy, but in the case of I Feel Pretty, the family-friendly PG-13 rating certainly puts a damper on the fun and yucks.
In I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer is Renee Bennett, a New York-based high-end fashion company website manager who toils away in a converted Office Space-like basement. Plagued by insecurity and a poor body image, she dreams of one day being considered beautiful enough to work her way up to the company’s plush high-rise offices, even if that means a step down as the receptionist. But she’s not a size 0, so her body type doesn’t quite fit the mold of the company’s image.
Renee’s wish of being pretty suddenly comes true when, during a spin class, an accident followed by a blow to the head causes her to see herself how she’s always wanted to, as knockout beautiful. Unlike a similar switcheroo with Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in Shallow Hal, there’s no actual body switching tricks at play here. She’s the only one who sees herself differently. Everyone else sees her the way the she’s always been: an average girl.
As Renee’s confidence begins to grow and she becomes emboldened by her newfound determination, I Feel Pretty begins to stray from its main message and becomes entangled in a confusing mess of mixed messages and errant themes. Though her personal life improves and her professional career takes off, the friendships she’s held as so valuable begin to deteriorate as she alienates her besties Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Phillips) with her disaffecting narcissism.
In other words, the film wants to tell us that we should feel good about who we truly are on the inside, not as we appear on the outside, yet on the inside, Renee has become a totally unrelatable braggart and a hatefully narcissistic snob. Rather than continuing to show us the virtues of being an “average” body type, we’re now being pounded over the head with what the experience of being body-shamed is like. Furthermore, had the filmmakers even managed to follow through with a consistent message, they simply didn’t make their film entertaining for long enough. There are long periods of wondering what is being set up, followed by jokes and bits that fall completely flat. In addition, the great Michelle Williams’ cosmetics executive character is so annoying and so poorly written, we cringe every time she’s on screen. A travesty.
I Feel Pretty has its heart in the right place and certainly has the bones of something very special, not to mention true superstar firepower. But a clumsy handling of its themes and misguided messages seriously hobble what it set out to do. I feel pretty dumb for having had such high hopes for this one.
(Released by STX Entertainment and rated “PG-13” for sexual content, some partial nudity, and language.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.