In 2015 Amy Schumer was deemed “too ugly” to be something of a desirable, sexual being in her breakthrough comedy Trainwreck. In 2018 she’s now considered “too pretty” to be the frumpy, downtrodden type she’s portraying in I Feel Pretty. Seemingly at a constant crossroad where she can’t satisfy her detractors, it hardly seems worth the capable comedienne’s time to try convincing them otherwise, and whilst she’s dedicated to I Feel Pretty‘s message of self-worth, it certainly won’t be winning any naysayers over.
That’s not to say I Feel Pretty is a bad film, just a suitably mediocre one, though it has more than its share of laugh-out-loud moments. Schumer plays Renee Bennett, an average, everyday-type-of-girl who dreams of something grander in most aspects of her life. At odds with her weight – one of her biggest issues – Renee takes a spinning class in the hopes she can cycle out her stubborn cellulite, only to suffer an unfortunate accident in the opening seconds which earns her a serious case of embarrassment and momentary unconsciousness. Upon waking, Renee is shocked to see her reflection now resembles that of a supermodel, and it’s in this new-found confidence that her life begins to drastically improve – only thing is, it’s only her outlook on her reflection that’s changed, with everyone else still seeing the same old Renee.
The film makes a point of never showing us how exactly Renee views herself as, and it’s to the credit of screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (Never Been Kissed, How To Be Single) that this is the case as the film drives home the importance of self-worth and one’s own confidence, and that being superficially attractive doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness; Emily Ratajkowski as an impossibly pretty fellow spin-cycler has a few nice moments with Schumer regarding her own self esteem issues which only further reiterates the film’s message. The other ace I Feel Pretty has up its sleeve is Michelle Williams, with the renowned actress turning in a surprising performance that easily hails as one of the year’s funniest. With perfectly poised movements and a vocal tone that sounds as if Marilyn Monroe huffed helium, Williams manages to subvert our expectations as she supplies alarming depth as a cosmetic mogul whose own insecurities about her squeaky voice and the pressure to impress her grandmother (a wonderful Lauren Hutton) make her an unlikely ally for Renee in a workplace that appears to value skeletal superficiality over personality.
The moments involving Williams, as well as those showcasing utterly charming pairing of Schumer and Rory Scovel as her love interest, is when I Feel Pretty travels quite confidently, and it’s a shame that the film doesn’t opt to keep these two plot strands as the main focus. A sub-strand regarding some minor family drama revolving around Williams and Hutton adds little, and the predictability that plagues the relationship between Renee and her two besties (Busy Phillips and Aidy Bryant) when she believes she’s too beautiful to hang with them only highlights the lazy pitfalls of the genre the writers were unable to avoid as opposed to the subversion we could only hope for.
You’ve already made up your mind on whether or not I Feel Pretty is a cinematic choice for yourself, and I garner a personal opinion on Schumer is the deciding factor; her usual sex-heavy, gross-out shtick is nowhere to be seen here though. A perfectly acceptable Sunday afternoon comedy that doesn’t offend or break any new ground, I Feel Pretty is sitcom-style comedy that doesn’t entirely rise above its premise, but it has a good time attempting to thanks to an inspired turn from Williams whose performance is undoubtedly worth the admission price alone.