Renee Barrett, a self-conscious employee of a make-up manufacturer, dreams of being pretty. While at an exercise class she slips and cracks her head on one of the spin bikes and wakes up convinced that she is beautiful, but really she has not undergone any transformation at all. However, this gives her the confidence she needs to achieve her goals.
Comedy is subjective, as such I should say up front that I do not like Amy Schumer’s brand of comedy. I have always found it abrasive and somewhat repetitive. The reason why I am bringing this up, like I did for my review of Amy Schumer’s previous release the abysmal Snatched, is so that you are aware of my bias and take this review with a grain of salt. Being the professional I am however, I will try to separate my disliking for Schumer’s bawdy and incredibly cringe-worthy repartee from the film, which may be good despite my expectations.
I Feel Pretty has an important central message, even if it is hammered home incredibly hard and hammily at points. It seems to preach the importance of accepting who you are, loving yourself or having the confidence to go out into the world and achieve all that you want to despite all the focus on an unrealistic standard of beauty that can have a negative impact on the self-steam of those who feel that they cannot measure up. It cannot be overstated that in this media-saturated world people should not be judged on the basis of how they look. We see that Renee, despite her perceptions of herself is still able to achieve thanks to her abilities and experiences. However, it is ironic then that it is a shame about the package that the message came in because I Feel Pretty does not feel pretty.
It is wrapped up in that sort of magical body swap plot, a la Big, but unlike Big there is no magic, it is just a concussion. So there are loads of jokes that can be construed as being about how deluded Amy Schumer’s character is. In one example we see a montage where Renee is at work she says something about being able to eat what she wants and still looks great, before taking a massive bite of a taco. Or perhaps more telling is in the initial reveal after Renee wakes up and she examines her apparently transformed self and she shows of her belly, while the manager of the gym just stands there and looks at her oddly. One could make the case that the concussion gave Renee the ability to see herself truly and accept herself but due to a fault in writing or performance that never really came across. Similarly, when the “magic spell” inevitably goes away we have half an hour of Renee wallowing in a problem that she doesn’t need to because she didn’t change physically.
It feels like the plot should have been more along the lines of Jim Carrey’s Yes Man, where a man is forced out of his comfort zone, and it seems that it is set up like that thanks to a mystical SoulCycle instructor who speaks to Renee about the change that she is there for today. Maybe that wouldn’t have worked either in regards to the message of the film. I can see that the central message would have gotten lost if there had been a true transformation, but I think that by setting the film up as a transformation film and referencing one of the best ones, Big, in your movie (which is always a mistake, never ever reference a better film in your own) it sets up a series of expectations that is never paid off.
Now we move on to Renee, or should I say Amy Schumer. Renee is standard Schumer, constantly repeating herself, being awkward, clutsy and at times a little obnoxious. This however suits the character as Renee toward the end of the film, though not perhaps consistently enough to be an arch, becomes self-centred and vain, embarrassing her friends at a double date sort of tinder thing. I am not sure whether the film contains any of the standard adlib stuff that most comedies have and whether that affected my enjoyment of some of the scenes, but I found myself liking some and disliking others. There is one moment when Renee first gets her new job and is called on to help pitch a new line of products for a more bargain orientated market and she makes some very sincere points, however she leaves it with a painful bit about calling her if they need more water with a sign that’s “Renee we need more water”.
There are some really good moments however; The budding romance between Renee and Ethan is sweet. While the bikini contest is a cringe humour moment it was remarkably enjoyable due to Schumer’s presence and physical ability. Actually, I think that the film was at its best when it was dealing with Renee’s relationships as the banter between Renee’s other friends, SNL‘s Aidy Bryant and Freaks and Geeks’ Busy Phillips, is grounded. Similarly the subplot about Renee and her boss, Avery LeClaire, played by Michelle Williams with a Lina Lamont style voice, while inconsistent and confusing provides some moments of entertainment. The problem is that most of it, while sweet and endearing, is that it isn’t funny and I think that I Feel Pretty was supposed to be a comedy.
It would be wrong to say that the blame should be laid at Amy Schumer’s feet, she is the most visible and divisive problem. There are clearly some issues with the script that pulls the films central message apart through mishandling and ambiguity. The fact that it is a comedy that is just not funny does not help and leaves the whole affair feeling empty, with just a pretty important core message rattling around something that is unfortunately forgettable. I Feel Pretty is certainly not what it sets out to be and left me feeling uncomfortable. The best thing you can say is that it is an empty way to pass 2 hours rather than an important feel-good film.
You can watch I Feel Pretty in cinemas now