Monday, July 23, 2018

Movie Review: I Feel Pretty

I Feel Pretty ** / *****
Directed by: Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein.
Written by: Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein.
Starring: Amy Schumer (Renee Bennett), Michelle Williams (Avery LeClaire), Tom Hopper (Grant Leclair), Rory Scovel (Ethan), Adrian Martinez (Mason), Emily Ratajkowski (Mallory), Aidy Bryant (Vivian), Busy Philipps (Jane), Lauren Hutton (Lilly Leclair), Sasheer Zamata (Tasha), Angela M. Davis (Luna), Caroline Day (Jenn), Anastagia Pierre (Claire), Gia Crovatin (Sasha), Olivia Culpo (Hope), Naomi Campbell (Helen), Kyle Grooms (Lyle). 
When I Feel Pretty came out in theaters a couple of months ago, there was a lot of talk about the film and its message – whether Amy Schumer was really the right actress to play the role of a woman who lacks confidence because of her looks – when there were so many women out there who would kill to look like Amy Schumer. Whether the talented, white and blonde actress should be in this role, when it’s so much harder for others – people who are not white, people who are disabled or transgender, etc. – who have it worse. Fair enough, I guess. Yet, when I sat down and actually watched I Feel Pretty this weekend, I noticed other, more serious problems – with the message of the movie, and the film itself. First of all, the message of the film seems to be completely at odds with itself – as if it wasn’t really thought through at all, and was just used to string together the fairy tale narrative of the film. And second of all, the film itself doesn’t really work because it’s just not very good – it’s not that smart, it’s not that funny, it has weird subplots that go nowhere, and doesn’t seem to know where it’s biggest assets are – shunting them to the side in favor of stuff that doesn’t work. It would be more interesting to pick apart the politics of I Feel Pretty if they felt like something the filmmakers actually believed in – or if anything else in the movie really worked.
In the film, Schumer stars as Renee Bennett – one of two people who work out of a Chinatown basement running the website of a high end cosmetics company (everyone else works on Fifth Avenue, in a gorgeous building, populated apparently only by gorgeous people). Renee is good at her job, has a pair of great friends – Vivian and Jane (Aidy Bryant and Busy Phillips – two of those strengths the movie doesn’t seem to realize it has), but she lacks confidence in herself. She has always dreamed of being pretty – like Mallory (Emily Ratajkowski) – a woman she meets at Soul Cycle, and expresses her own insecurities, which Renee cannot believe she has. But at that Soul Cycle class, something odd happens – Renee hits her head, hard, and when she wakes up, she looks in the mirror and suddenly thinks her dreams have come true – that she has become that devastatingly beautiful woman she always wanted to be. Suddenly, filled with confidence, everything starts going different for her. She meets a new guy – Ethan (Rory Scovel) – and they immediately hit it off. She also gets a job at the fifth avenue location of the company she works for – first as a receptionist, and then latter, she is drawn in to help them launch their new, lower-end product line by heiress Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams) – who despite being rich, thin and beautiful, has her own doubts.
I do appreciate somethings about the film – mainly, that the filmmakers (Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein) don’t do anything to make Schumer looks different from the beginning of the film, to the point where she thinks she’s beautiful. There’s no Shallow Hal fat suit here, she isn’t replaced by thinner actress, etc. – it’s all Schumer, and she looks the same throughout. What changes is her confidence – how she carries herself. She carries herself differently, simply because now she is freed from all those self-doubts she has always had. This allows her to go for the job, to speak up in meetings to get promoted, to hit on Ethan at the dry cleaners, etc. As confused as the messaging in the film gets, this aspect actually works.
But the messaging really does get confused. If the film is selling the line of its’s inside that counts, I don’t quite know why they felt the need to sell out for what most have been some hefty Soul Cycle product placement money. Or why the big, climatic speech about being yourself really is all about makeup – and buying that one brand that just makes you feel better. That seems at odds with the message of the movie, doesn’t it? I’m also not quite sure what the movie is trying to say about Renee and her friendships with Vivian and Jane – since the one aspect where Renee seems to become a completely different person, a worse person, is when dealing with them – as she makes them feel small and valueless. Bryant and Phillips have such an easy chemistry with each other – and Schumer, at the beginning of the film – but they’re pretty much wasted. And the less said about Grant LeClair (Tom Hopper), the better – but for now, let’s just say I have no idea why he’s in the movie or what purpose he was supposed to serve.
If I wish the movie were better, it’s partly because I would like more people to see Michelle Williams in full on comedy mode as Avery LeClaire – it’s a perfect example of what happens when a great supporting performance falls victim to a bad movie. She is hilarious in the film – at first you think she’s doing a version of her Marilyn Monroe, but its different here. And it’s wonderful.
Ultimately though, I Feel Pretty is a pretty lame comedy with a confused message that seems at odds with itself. Nothing really works that well in the film. Perhaps this is further proof that while Hollywood wants Amy Schumer, they haven’t quite figured out what to do with her. It’s a tough spot for Schumer herself to be in – she became very big, very quickly (after a long time working) – but she’s a star in a different mold, that they haven’t figured out how to use. I hope they figure it out – and soon.

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