“I Feel Pretty” Movie Review


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     Filmmaking is all about risk taking, particularly if your goals center around the creation of something original, rather than continuously going to the same well that has proven successful in the past.  There’s no question Amy Schumer’s new film “I Feel Pretty” was a tremendous risk, as the filmmakers involved certainly must’ve predicted the backlash that would come when the story features a main character who is apparently thought of as ugly and overweight within the fictional world she occupies, but is played by Schumer who is herself a glamorous highly thought of actress and comedian.  In a sort of “Shallow Hal” style scenario, but without the actress donning a fat suit, “I Feel Pretty” attempts to explore themes of self worth and confidence in a society that for decades has predetermined what “pretty” is supposed to look like. 

     Unfortunately, co-writers and directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, making their feature directorial debut here, have written their script using a by the numbers approach to screenwriting that utilizes a common formula we often see in films of this kind.  After the initial gimmick, whatever it may be, the protagonist goes through a phase in which their new found power or confidence consumes them throughout the middle act, only to realize the error of their ways in what is often an overly sentimental third act.  “I Feel Pretty” follows this trajectory from beginning to end in what feels like an eternity since the merits of the device that drive the plot wear off within ten minutes.

     When we first meet Renee (Amy Schumer), she’s buried in a basement at a desk within a labyrinth of wall to wall computer hardware along with her partner Mason (Adrian Martinez).  The duo complete website work for a name brand make up company in New York City, but are apparently too hideous to be seen within the company’s main building that is filled with only the kind of people our culture deem beautiful and worthy of such a job.  Early on, we glimpse into Renee’s social life with her two best friends, Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps), as they attempt to parlay themselves as a threesome on a dating website, but are ultimately disappointed when their profile page garners zero views.  The filmmakers ensure their despair is laid on thick, with each of them declaring their inability to attract the opposite sex is due to their appearance and the numerous flaws each believe they must contend with daily.

     Kohn and Silverstein want us to feel Renee is so incredibly awkward and inept that they stage not one, but two sequences in which she attends a spin class at a trendy club and can’t seem to even get riding a stationary bike down without some sort of mishap.  The second such accident leads to the gimmick I spoke of earlier, which sees Renee falling and hitting her head, only to awaken and suddenly see herself as being pretty enough to be a runway model.  This, of course, is a funny bit when it initially occurs.  When she awakens in the locker room and is being attended to by a club employee, her sudden outburst of confidence is good for a laugh or two, but the film, which sits at just under two hours, attempts to stretch the scenario far beyond what it’s worth, while adding nothing to it in the process.  When you’re talking about a character who looks exactly the same in the beginning as she does the end, there has to be something more to the story, but in this film, there isn’t.

     Renee applies to be a receptionist in the main lobby of her company’s building, a move that obviously has many of the character’s eyes rolling, but her appeal happens to be witnessed and appreciated by the company’s namesake, Avery LeClaire ( a delightful Michelle Williams testing her comedic chops), resulting in her getting the position.  And in similar fashion to Jack Black’s character in “Shallow Hal”, her head begins to inflate as she tastes the kind of social success she had previously only dreamt of, which of course means she finds herself amongst the elite while leaving her real friends on the sidelines.  All of this is predictable from beginning to end.  We know exactly how the budding relationship with Ethan (Rory Scovel), the guy in the film who all of the sudden notices her after her epiphany, will end up, just as we know what exactly she will eventually realize about herself.

     But the real issue buried not too deeply within the confines of “I Feel Pretty” is the fact Amy Schumer herself is not the ugly or obese person her character believes she is.  And when she has the mental transformation resulting from the stationary bike accident, nothing changes in the eyes of the audience.  There’s nothing audacious about the performance when we already know exactly what we’re getting.  Amy Schumer is a Hollywood star, who has become famous for her often raunchy take on her life and appearance in the standup comedy scene, as well as an outstanding starring debut in 2015’s “Trainwreck”. In other words her character Renee is exactly what we would expect in this sort of film.  In every scene in the glamorous world of fashion and make up that her character occupies, we immediately buy into it.  Why?  Because that’s Amy Schumer!  Most already accept her as being “pretty”.  Which begs the question.  Will a mainstream studio film ever be daring enough to actually cast someone in a role like this who actually doesn't fit the societal determined norm of beautiful and let an audience see just how wonderful that person is on the inside?  Not likely in my lifetime.  GRADE: C