UK Release Date: 4th May 2018
Runtime: 110 minutes
Director: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Writer: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Starring: Amy Schumer, Rory Scovel, Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps, Lauren Hutton, Tom Hopper
Synopsis: A woman struggling with body image issues believes she has transformed into the most beautiful woman in the world after she hits her head during a spin class.
I Feel Pretty opens with a joke about Amy Schumer having wide feet. The most positive thing anybody says about her in the first hour of this film is that she looks as if she “can handle herself in a fight”. At first glance, the movie appears to have fulfilled every promise of the tremendously distasteful trailer that took the internet by storm at the beginning of the year and prompted a response by Schumer, urging people to wait for the movie before passing judgement. It’s certainly true that the movie is more good-natured than its trailer, but that doesn’t make its message any less concerning.
Schumer plays Renee, who works on the website for a cosmetics giant, which is based in a Chinatown basement away from its HQ for some reason. She idolises her whisper-voiced boss Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams) and aspires to apply for the vacant receptionist position at head office. Desperate to appeal more to the ideals of physical beauty espoused by her colleagues, she takes up spinning, only to fall from the bike and sustain a head injury. She now sees herself as the most beautiful woman alive and promptly uses this confidence to win herself the job – and a romance with nice guy Ethan (Rory Scovel).
The film is the first directing project for experienced writing duo Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein. With Never Been Kissed and How To Be Single on their resume, they’re well-versed in the romcom world, but have delivered something bizarrely incompetent here. It’s a movie that asks the audience to identify with an awful, materialistic character who is driven entirely by her appearance. None of that changes as a result of her journey of self-confidence and, indeed, she becomes a worse person when she believes she’s attractive – arrogant and patronising. Her big epiphany in the third act, driven by the supposedly shocking realisation that attractive people get dumped too, merely allows her to achieve a level of baseline decency.
Schumer, though, is a wildfire of comedic talent and so, like a stopped clock telling the time correctly twice a day, she occasionally lands upon genius. Many of the best one-liners feel like they could have been Schumer ad-libs. Her energy is impossible to deny and she has real chemistry with Rory Scovel, despite the movie’s problematic suggestion that his insecurities are worthy of ridicule while hers are not. The standout, though, is Michelle Williams as a waif-like cosmetics boss with an absurd parody of a breathy, high voice. She knows exactly what sort of film she’s in and amps up the silliness accordingly.
The rest of the film, though, definitely suffers from an identity crisis. It lumbers between poor taste set pieces with all the grace of an inebriated giraffe and tosses in random plot threads – hello, preposterously gorgeous Tom Hopper – that are destined to never pay off in any meaningful way. I Feel Pretty is also sadly unwilling to spend time with Aidy Bryant and Busy Philipps, who are great value as Schumer’s friends. They have their own insecurities, but the film is only interested in Schumer – an entirely conceited and annoying presence with a misguided woe-is-me attitude.
Despite its problems with tone, taste and lack of laughs, I Feel Pretty is a nicer and more good-natured movie than it initially seems. The central message ultimately is one of learning to accept yourself the way you are and that’s laudable, but seeing that story through the lens of Schumer’s obnoxious protagonist makes it a tough journey to get to a starting point that most people would already have broadly accepted before they’d seen the movie.
Pop or Poop?
If you’re a big fan of Amy Schumer and her work, you’ll probably find plenty to enjoy in I Feel Pretty. If you’re a Schumer agnostic, though, the movie’s poor-taste premise and significant periods of laugh-free tedium will have you wanting to run a mile in the other direction.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.