Director: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Screenplay: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Emily Ratajkowski, Busy Philipps, Aidy Bryant, Naomi Campbell, Lauren Hutton, Tom Hopper
Runtime: 110 Minutes
Somewhere in the initial pitch for I Feel Pretty there is a positive message that is trying to be conveyed. A story of female empowerment tied to the nature of the cosmetics industry, societal expectations of women and in general and the acceptance of one’s self on a level of mental satisfaction as much as one that is physical.
Sadly, the physical aspect is where the film decides to gauge its point and work out from, and while in an ever-changing landscape of equalised gender representation at a time in which discussion has possibly never been more fevered or sensationalised, the missteps of Amy Schumer’s latest comedy vehicle are so strong and numerous in quantity that it leaves this well-intentioned romantic comedy a flabby, misdirected failure.
The immediate point of concern was already represented in the first poorly received trailer for the film, whereby protagonist Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer) is suffering from confidence issues stemming from her physical appearance, only to suffer a head injury at a spin class whereby she falls under the apparent delusion that she is “beautiful”.
The tangible problems behind this are enormous and yet the film keeps going steam ahead without once considering how any of this might come off. The flustered and enraged mess of mechanics to this development doesn’t even add up. If she thinks she’s slimmer than she is then why is she still buying clothes that fit her former body? Does she actually see a slim person or has merely her perception of beauty changed?
It’s never really answered, but the film doesn’t really care either even though it toys with a joking reference to the magic-realism of Big (which the film references multiple times) but indulges in her mental delusion. That appears more distressing than funny, but Renee seems convinced it was magic that caused her to change appearance.
Never mind the fact that we are being invited to laugh at Amy Schumer’s antics as she confidently swaggers around convinced of her slim waistline, when Schumer is in fact NOT unattractive and in fact a beautifully dressed and kept movie star, but the point and laugh angle it’s playing is so grossly against the message of the film overall that it comes across as mildly creepy and insidious on the audiences part for laughing, and for the film itself inviting said laughter throughout.
Worse still, whenever it's not directing its energies at Schumer, it’s poking fun at the expense of other people’s appearances or conflicts. From Renee’s obese and antisocial basement dwelling co-worker and his hygiene habits, to new boss Avery LeClaire and her incredibly high-pitched and soft voice in a performance that is delivered terrifically by Michelle Williams, but figures into her character as a genuine flaw that she has apparently tired to lift for years because it knocks her self-esteem down.
The film wants to have its cake and eat it too, laughing at the expense of faults or physical traits before retreating back to knowingly reassuring its characters (and the audience) that they should all accept themselves for who they are. Culminating in what can only be described as a jaw-dropping display of a message-mongering monologue at the climax, so fantastically misjudged as it transitions from an earnest statement from the writers and filmmakers into a commercial pitch for the fictitious cosmetics line the characters have been trying to push.
The comedy itself is resting on the laurels of improvised dialogue that only drags the film length out. Though some of the character interactions are okay or well managed by the cast, much of it seems to fall flat when it's not being performed by a powerhouse like Williams, who more or less owns the movie.
Which is sad to say of Schumer, because despite her decline in the public consciousness due to overexposure she is a talented comedian and writer. But the screenplay by directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, who are already familiar with this genre, doesn’t allow her much wiggle room to lampoon the image of conventionally attractive people in the media.
The one sequence that comes close to this is where Renee enters a wet t-shirt contest, much to her current boyfriends despair for her own well-being, and allows it to play out more like a parody of erotically charged dance moves and over-sexualisation for the male gaze – at least in some interpretation – and ends out coming up top as the film’s best scene.
Outside of these factors though, the film still doesn’t really work. Its structure is rigidly played, plot threads and characters emerge and then disappeared without much repercussion beyond character busy work, and the comedy in relation to the whole body illusion is just a mess that only gets worse once she snaps back out of it in time for a feel-good ending note.
I Feel Pretty is an ugly movie. Though not as arduous to sit through as might have been expected, it's still a hell of a mess that makes little to no sense, tirelessly long and manages to shiv its own high held ideals right in the stomach at every opportunity it can very much because of the concept it's trying to realise. Otherwise, it’s just too conventionally boring and trite to get worked up over.