This week I went and saw I Feel Pretty, with Amy Schumer. I wanted to like this movie so much, I really did. I like Amy Schumer, I think she’s funny. And I Feel Pretty had a fairly universal story question. Who hasn’t felt insecure about the way they look? What would we do if we could see ourselves as beautiful? How would our lives change? It’s a good premise and I was curious to see how that would play out. This was another movie where the trailer pretty much captures the whole of the plot of the movie. And I was definitely up for a ‘beauty comes from within’ message.
A woman struggling with insecurity wakes from a fall believing she is the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. Her new confidence empowers her to live fearlessly, but what happens when she realizes her appearance never changed?
As intriguing as the premise was, it turns out it wasn’t really enough to fill a movie with. Or at least this movie. This must have been a really hard movie to write – there just wasn’t enough plot to cover the whole thing. This movie was 1 hour 50 minutes, which is shorter than most movies I’ve seen this year. It felt longer. We kept seeing the same beats over and over again. Amy Schumer’s character Renee feeling insecure at the gym, at work, then at the Drug Store, then on the street. One of these would have been enough. Then later it was Renee, with the power of belief, entering into situations that nobody else would expect her to and their hilarious reactions. Again and again and again. It was funny but subject to diminishing returns.
I wondered a bit about the tone of the I Feel Pretty at times. When Renee’s wild overconfidence puts her at odds with the expectations of those around her, it feels (at least at first) like we’re laughing AT her. That makes sense, in a way, Amy Schumer is a comedian, after all, this plays to her strengths, but I didn’t want to laugh at that. Thankfully this almost always transitioned to a much more funny set of reactions by the supporting cast. And the entire cast was amazing. There was a particularly funny scene with Sasheer Zamata that still makes me laugh. Rory Scovel was fantastic as her boyfriend and Michelle Williams nailed the spoiled and fragile rich girl thing. And then there’s Tom Hopper. Oh Tom Hopper, I would take any kind of head injury you could deliver if it meant I could… but head injuries do not work that way. Not ever.
There were some moments where we got some interesting nuances. Like when Renee starts treating her friends differently because she believes she’s ascended to a new level of attractiveness. I would have liked to see more of that, but I Feel Pretty was more interested in being funny than doling out social commentary. Fair enough on that point, this could have gotten too serious very quickly if not handled right so maybe this was the right call. After all, had this been even a little more realistic, someone would have taken some time to explain to Renee exactly where she was going wrong. Instead we relied on some (often funny but) credulity straining coincidences to allow her to retain her self-conception.
So is I Feel Pretty worth seeing? Maybe not. It’s not that it’s unworthy of your time, it’s just that I spent far too much time wishing the plot would progress. Like it was an hour long movie stretched out. But I loved the message: that ‘Audacity is the Heart of Beauty’ (I forgot who said that) and that confidence is more important that what you actually look like. I’d like to see this same plot done a different way, somehow. Though how, I couldn’t tell you.
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