I Feel Pretty is Amy Schumer’s empowerment anthem for those who suffer from low self-esteem, defining the anxiety of body acceptance in today’s world of extreme glamour and continuous judgment. She also wants to make a date night movie. And a wish-fulfillment comedy. And a friendship melodrama.
There’s a lot going on, but I Feel Pretty remains weirdly simplistic, following a strict formula as it attempts to relate to every last ticket-buyer. Schumer is a spirited performer, but this is her worst starring role to date, with a dismal screenplay that’s too broad and predictable to drive home its intended messages.
Photo courtesy of STX Films
I Feel Pretty is mostly in exaggeration mode to sell the absurd visual of Amy Schumer as some kind of bovine.
Renee (Amy Schumer) is a low-level tech employee with LeClaire, a beloved high-end cosmetics company. She has friends in Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philips), but hates everything about herself.
Renee receives a head injury, coming to with a newfound sense of pride in her looks, believing herself to be a knockout. Infused with explosive confidence, Renee finds a boyfriend in Ethan (Rory Scovel) and a new job as a receptionist for LeClaire, charming her boss, Avery (Michelle Williams), who’s nervously preparing a budget line for women like Renee.
Bursting with personality and hungry for experiences, Renee finds herself in command of LeClaire’s future, and with such responsibility arrogance develops, threating her longstanding relationships as the new Renee conquers all.
I Feel Pretty isn’t subtle. Writers/directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein craft a mainstream comedy, keeping Renee a cartoon, showcasing her oafish ways with exercise and fashion, and pitting her larger body (which is open for debate—this isn’t Shallow Hal) against judgment from others, especially in her spin class.
Renee is a sad sack, lacking male interest, a job that respects her need for natural light, and she doesn’t want to participate with her pals in a matchmaking website catering to triple dates (one of many head-scratching ideas presented in the film).
But I Feel Pretty doesn’t know what to do with Renee, soon wiping away authenticity to highlight her viewing of Big, which inspires her to make a wish at a nearby fountain, but her journey doesn’t really begin until she makes another appearance at her spin class, absorbing inspiration from her instructor, but finally crashing into confidence after she survives a head injury at the gym.
Got all that?
The set-up isn’t simplified, but the rest of the screenplay is, tracking Renee’s new belief in herself and using this power to change her life. She moves from computers to the front office, wowing the stuck-up, short-skirted stiffs with her bright attitude and insightful ideas on how to market cheap cosmetics to lowly Target shoppers (one of many product plugs in the feature).
Williams has some fun playing the brittle head of the company, who’s cursed with a baby doll voice, but the film belongs to Schumer, working her newfound beauty (which only she can see), even picking up a sensitive boyfriend in Ethan, who’s drawn to her spark and curious ways, including impromptu entry in a bikini contest.
Schumer has a way of milking moments for their amusing awkwardness, but she’s mostly in exaggeration mode to sell the absurd visual of Renee as some type of unworthy bovine in a land of immaculately made-up foxes.
There’s plenty to build on, but I Feel Pretty isn’t adventurous. Kohn and Silverstein turn the whole effort into a predictable arc of conceited behavior, with Renee jeopardizing her friendships when she joins the cool kids club.
For a movie that already has trouble with internal logic (Renee’s awareness of her brain damage “magic” keeps changing), these swan dives into tedious formula don’t help an already weak, borderline mean-spirited endeavor.
I Feel Pretty has all the good intentions in the world, but anything genuine is worn down to smoothness by labored writing and submissive direction.