In a social media age, more and more people start sweeping, broad-stroke articles with the phrase “in a social media age”. It’s also true, however, that in the echo chamber of the internet, the impact of a bad trailer is more keenly felt. When reactions are instant, emotions are quick to rise and the funniest/smartest statement is able to catch fire immediately, a decision about a piece of entertainment’s quality, content and future can be made in an hour, months before anyone watches it.
We’ve seen this a lot in 2018. Netflix series Insatiable prompted a huge social media campaign to block its release over allegations it was body shaming, but then when the series came out, audience reaction was far nicer about the show, and many said there was more under the surface than what that first trailer suggested. The upcoming Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody drew criticism after the release of its first trailer for erasing Mercury’s sexuality. The reaction was instant and the tone was set that this movie was a whitewash, before the second trailer came out and showed that Mercury’s relationships with men would be a part of the film and its story.
And so, we come to I Feel Pretty – out on DVD today – which was possibly the first movie of 2018 to prompt the ire of social media as a result of its trailer in February. There were other factors to the criticism – Amy Schumer is a divisive figure for reasons I’ve never understood – but mainly people took issue with the spirit of a movie in which a person who doesn’t have a flat stomach needs a head injury to think herself pretty. This is also happening while we’re being asked to believe that Schumer isn’t an attractive woman, and the trailer presents her confidence as the butt of the jokes.
It’s with that lingering impression of this movie as a mean-spirited exercise in fat-shaming that you sit down to watch I Feel Pretty. However, while it isn’t a great movie because it fails in its main aim as a comedy to make you laugh, its politics aren’t dreadful – just 15 years too late. In fact, its opening sequence doesn’t take aim at Schumer’s looks in particular, but focuses on the psyche of what its like to be a ‘non-standard’ looking woman in the 21st century. Schumer is a pretty woman. That is undeniable and it would be shirking her own work in Trainwreck to deny that, but she doesn’t feel it at the beginning of the movie. While I’m not a woman, however, I can empathise with internalising physical flaws that other people might think are fine.
Sure, the film is patronising. It features a scene in which a stuffy make-up agency filled with size zero models is shocked to realise that a ‘normy’ has something to contribute and Schumer’s characters descent into being an arsehole is pretty uneven, but it doesn’t do a bad job, at least in the early stages, of painting a picture of what it’s like to feel inadequate even if you’re objectively not. After the head injury though, I Feel Pretty loses its way. The laughs just aren’t there. Friends are picked up and discarded, and the story isn’t really treading any ground that hasn’t been walked over many times before.
The aforementioned politics, however, do feel very dated. The idea that women can be women and that everyone should feel comfortable in their bodies has been around for several years and no one needs a glossy comedy to tell us that again. What that conversation needs is to have the next step taken, and while there’s a whisper of that in the opening act, this movie doesn’t feel confident enough in itself to follow that path to its positive conclusion.
What did you think of I Feel Pretty? Did you avoid it because of that genuinely dreadful trailer? Let me know in the comments section.