I Feel Pretty’s execution fails its message
The intention behind Abby Kohn’s and Marc Silverstein’s I Feel Pretty can’t be faulted. The film couldn’t be timelier, as it is a broadside against media representations of unrealistic physical perfection and the effect that it has on women’s self-image. However, this comedy is a “one-step-forward, two-steps-back” exercise that can’t get out of its own way to convey its theme in an effective manner. Making its point repeatedly and in an increasingly simplistic way, the movie winds up being its own worst enemy, much like the women it focuses on.
Renee (Amy Schumer) is a young woman who constantly struggles with her weight and appearance, doing all she can to be what the fashion magazines tell her she should be. Attending workout classes where she feels out of place amidst the impossibly svelte, unable to find fashionable clothes in her size, and subscribing to ridiculous “How To” YouTube videos that will supposedly improve her looks, Renee is adrift, never satisfied with herself. This is underscored by her job as a computer tech for Lily LeClaire beauty products, with her office as far away and hidden from the corporate headquarters as possible.
However, as fate (read: Kohn and Silverstein) would have it, Renee has an accident at spinning class one day. She falls, cracks her melon, and suddenly sees herself as gorgeous whenever she looks in the mirror. Though she has not changed physically, her attitude is now one of extreme confidence, a change that spurs her to get a job out front as the receptionist at Lily LeClaire, where she catches the eye of corporate head Avery (Michelle Williams), who’s in desperate need of advice from a “real woman” regarding their new line of make-up products. Additionally, Renee finds herself in a relationship with a fella (Rory Scovel) who’s taken with her confidence.
Schumer gives her all in bringing Renee’s trials to life – her anguish is palpable, yet her zeal when Renee looks at herself in a different light almost saves the movie. With her dreams having come true, her character is the personification of exuberance, lighting up each scene she’s in with unbridled charm. She’s quite winning and has us firmly in Renee’s corner. Scovel is the straight man here, put aback by his love interest’s brash nature and flummoxed time and again. The duo produces more than a few laughs, which helps the film over a few rough spots.
Problem is, Kohn and Silverstein’s script becomes repetitive, delivering its message of body positivity again and again, redundancy becoming the order of the day. Equally troubling is the filmmakers’ inconsistent tone. The balance between drama and comedy simply isn’t there, while the intended Capra-esque ending falls flat and feels desperate.
In addition to Schumer’s fine work, Aidy Bryant and a miscast Busy Philipps ably support her as Renee’s best friends, while Michelle Williams is able to find certain nuances in Avery that lesser actresses would have missed. It’s good to see long-absent, former model Lauren Hutton as the matriarch of Lily LeClaire, as well.
The theme of loving who you are and expecting others to accept you without criticism can’t be repeated enough in this day and age, and Kohn and Silverstein are to be commended for bringing the topic to the forefront. The quality of Pretty doesn’t negate the message; it just isn’t strong enough to drive it home effectively.