I Feel Pretty (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Amy Schumer, still tremendously popular, has a buzz growing around I Feel Pretty, a film that could provide the comedienne with another box office hit.
Michelle Williams, almost unrecognizable here, steals the show with a comedic turn, peppered with a proper dusting of empathy, that makes her the film's most interesting character.
People laughed a lot at my viewing of the film, could play well with audiences.
Where do I begin? The movie's messaging feels profound and progressive, but is really quite bizarre and regressive and a bit troubling, when you sit down and think about everything going on here.
These are important issues facing Renee, and unfortunately, the script by directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, has no interest in exploring them. Instead, they are props for mediocre comedy and sitcom-style conflicts. Rather problematic, all involved deserve better.
Amusing, easy-to-watch, and instantly forgettable, this is the cable-television-on-a-Sunday-afternoon-movie-that-is-always-on-whenever-you-fold-laundry flick you'll probably stumble upon in a year or two from now. Also, don't think about how it says what it says - it will be better that way.
Are there any movies more frustrating than the one’s who truly believe they are being profound, yet remain so tone deaf to the fact that, even if they say all the right things, the journey getting to those messages could not have been handled any worse?
When Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer) stands in front of a private soirée for a high-end cosmetics company, ready to launch a budget brand of products to the oddly-specific demographic of “Target women,” we see her deliver a speech about women needing to find the confidence they had when they were children, and carrying that forward into adulthood. The crowd cheers, Renee smiles, her best friends wipe back tears, and the CEO of the Lily LeClaire organization, Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams) gives her a huge hug.
She also reminds Renee that the company has a mental health program.
And that joke, right there, encapsulates so much of why Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein’s I Feel Pretty is so problematic. Renee has some deep-seeded, lingering issues with self-esteem and body image that a pithy, intermittently amusing, quasi-romantic comedy cannot just snuff out with an easy-to-applaud, on-the-nose monologue.
From the beginning, we see a woman in emotional turmoil. Renee has had it. Down on her luck, when she stares at herself in the mirror, she cannot stand to look at what looks back at her. She is bored with her job, gets mocked at clothing stores, and sees herself as undesirable. She joins SoulCycle, a high-energy exercise bike class, leading to a series of unfortunate events. This includes a stumble and fall, and presumably, a severe concussion for Renee, who awakens to the belief that she now looks “perfect” and as hot as ever.
One might reasonably anticipate that I Feel Pretty takes this rather novel premise and explores society’s strange and unhealthy fascination with physical appearance, and the toll it takes on women everywhere to look and present themselves in a certain way. Instead, I Feel Pretty decides to have Renee’s ambition ultimately be to take a pay cut and work as a receptionist for that same cosmetics company, housed on the umpteenth floor of a company-branded high-rise in New York City.
Oh. Alright then.
Kohn and Silverstein make their directorial debuts here, after writing several films that have, arguably, not been very good (He’s Just Not that Into You, Valentine’s Day, The Vow, How to Be Single among them...). A good idea quickly turns into a rudimentary exercise in watching Renee become increasingly vapid, shallow, and shun her two best friends (Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps), but also become so incredibly confident and uncaring with what others believe, that she lands not only the receptionist gig, but new boyfriend Ethan (Rory Scovel), who has never met anyone quite like Renee.
Throughout the film, Renee believes that everyone sees her the way she now sees herself, completely believing that her physical appearance has wholly and completely transformed overnight. Hmmm.
Logic aside for a moment, the movie does find Schumer deliver a good, engaging performance, while Williams flat out steals every scene she’s in as the almost unrecognizable and skittish lamb of a corporate executive, saddled with a quiet, whispery, high-pitched voice, and comedic timing the actress has never quite showcased before.
A Michelle Williams/Avery LeClaire movie spinoff would be divine.
With that said, I Feel Pretty is fixated on Renee’s delusions and the movie stops becoming funny, as soon as we realize she is in need of some serious help to address some really strenuous mental health issues she needs to take care of.
And understand - if Kohn and Silverstein had any desire to address the important issues they flirt with here, this film could have some meaningful impact and bite. Apparently, it is just easier to craft a plucky, sickly-sweet comedy that finds two people bonding over Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, Renee competing in a wet T-shirt contest in a dive bar (don’t even get me started…), then sabotaging her friends at every turn once she becomes “hot”, all while diving into a world of superficial looks and appearances that feels false and forced.
Admittedly an easy watch, I found moments here that made me laugh and chuckle. However, Schumer simply is not an actress who believably appears like we are expected to view her. I hate even making this a point, but she looks, dare I say, good, healthy, and, perhaps, most frustrating of all – she is never given a chance to have scenes give her the capacity to be someone we understand and/or remotely empathize with all that much.
To me, I Feel Pretty’s conceit of Renee becoming a selfish backstabber draws out a person she’s always been. The movie offers nothing but silence on confronting that reality.
Plus, in one of the movie’s more egregious, head-snapping blunders, watch Renee’s reaction upon learning that her SoulCycle, zero-sized model friend Mallory (Emily Ratajkowski), struggles with self-esteem and was recently dumped by her boyfriend.
Renee is likely over 30 years old. She goes out with her friends and has a social life. Her reaction is stunted, childish, and, in the context of the film, completely problematic.
I want to like I Feel Pretty because, though simplistic and awkwardly delivered, the ultimate message of loving one's self and accepting who you are is naturally a good one. However, compared to Schumer’s previous work, this feels regressive on a lot of different levels. We don’t need someone to enter a world of superficiality and condemnation, only to then adhere to those traits and then wonder, walking out of the theater, if Renee truly learned from them.
I expected better, based on Schumer's whip-smart track record and self-referential and aware brand of comedy. To see her land in such a muddled and mismanaged story about issues paramount to her comedy career, raises even more questions this movie is simply ill equipped to even begin to answer.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps, Tom Hopper, Lauren Hutton, Adrian Martinez, Emily Ratajkowski, Sasheer Zamata, Angela Davis, Naomi Campbell, Dave Attell.
Director: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Written by: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Release Date: April 20, 2018