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‘I Feel Pretty’ (review)

Produced by Nicolas Chartier, McG,
Alissa Phillips, Dominic Rustam,
Amy Schumer, Mary Viola
Written and Directed by
Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Starring Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams,
Rory Scovel, Emily Ratajkowski, Busy Philipps,
Aidy Bryant, Naomi Campbell, Lauren Hutton,
Tom Hopper, Sasheer Zamata, Dave Attell

 

“Never change!”

How many times has that been written in yearbooks, shouted out in parting, or said in earnest after a particularly poignant chat?

But if your friend is “beautiful on the inside” they might not echo your sentiment.

At least, that’s how Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer) feels.

Each day, the insecure Bennett wishes that she was a prettier, thinner, and more capable version of herself.

After an embarrassing accident at a SoulCycle class, Renee’s head injury makes her believe that she has been transformed into her dream self.

Her newfound confidence lands her a job promotion, a new beau, and a new lease on life.

But will her imagined physique make her lose touch with her genuine self?

Schumer is known for her body-positive outlook so I Feel Pretty should be a bright and empowering romp. Instead, there is a grating feeling that the writers have had to work incredibly hard to make the audience feel that the world is mean to someone who, in reality, was an average sized blonde woman with great clothes, a decent job, and two best friends in her thirties (an accomplishment in itself).

And let us be honest: Renee is already a bit of a mean girl before getting her concussion-induced self-esteem. In an exchange with her awkward co-worker (Adrian Martinez), she acts completely disgusted by her proximity to him working in the off-site basement office of the company rather than the fancy downtown office. This is a woman who, in lieu of a purse, used a Best Buy bag.

With this as starting fodder, it is almost no wonder that she becomes a monster once pride is added. When she starts believing in herself, there is no gradual slide from feeling out her confidence to being self-absorbed. She imagines men hitting on her based on the premise that they cannot help themselves in her presence and ditches her friends for the skinny popular girls.

From the moment Renee finds herself attractive, she exudes an insufferable confidence that’s more “better than thou” than “look at me now”.

Everyone around her that she always looked up to is oddly enticed by this attitude, and why wouldn’t they be?

She works at Lily LeClaire, a designer makeup brand that is about to launch a more “accessible” version of their products, much to the distaste of recent heir Avery LeClaire, a baby-voiced Michelle Williams with flawless skin, sharp style, and deep-seated insecurities about her ideas due to the undermining nature of her vocal tone. Williams delivers excellent one-liners, and is one of the funniest supporting actresses which means that comedy queens Busy Phillips and Aidy Bryant are absolutely wasted in their roles as Renee’s best friends.

An entire subplot with Tom Hopper as Grant LeClair was also not fleshed out in the least, taking valuable script space. It added nothing to the story, and could have been cut completely to shave a half hour from this overly drawn out comedy.

At an hour and fifty minutes, I Feel Pretty wears out its thin premise early and leaves the audience begging for Renee’s comeuppance in the face of her increasingly vapid cruelty.

When we ask someone to never change it is because there is something special there, anchored by how genuine the person is. But from the overblown instant confidence to the artificially harsh way that “regular Renee” is treated by the world (a baby cries simply from looking at her), there is nothing genuine about this movie to connect with. The lessons about the perils of superficiality never appear, and the idea that all it takes is believing in oneself is demonstrated better by the SoulCycle warmup scenes than the plot of the actual film.

Instead of “never change”, audiences will be writing “better luck next time”.

 

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