I Feel Pretty (2018)
Change everything Without changing anything
Some people are impossible to please. It was only three years ago that Amy Schumer ruffled feathers by casting herself as the love interest in Judd Apatow’s 2015 rom-com Trainwreck, the blonde comedian playing a sexed-up magazine writer with commitment issues. Sure, Schumer doesn’t fit into your traditional image of Hollywood beauty, but is it really that hard to buy the now 36-year-old as an object of one’s desire? Soon after we had the whole live-action Barbie debacle, where the actress was cast in the lead role before dropping out due to scheduling conflicts, this after a backlash from hateful internet trolls who complained that her ‘plus size’ grated against the traditional look of the flawless Mattel toys.
Now, in 2018, Schumer is apparently ‘too good looking’ to play the ugly subject of her own Shallow Hal (2001) type of body-image satire, where a woman with low self-esteem wakes from a fall thinking that she’s now the most beautiful girl on the planet. Fortunately, this is not the body-shaming dribble that some might have feared, the warm-hearted script, penned by writer-directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein — the pair who wrote Never Been Kissed (1999) and How to Be Single (2016) — suggesting that you are the only person who has the power to see yourself for what you truly are — whatever that may be.
Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer) isn’t your typical insecure sad sack. For one, she’s got a job as a techie for the online division of LeClair cosmetics, a high-end New York beauty company, even if Renee works from a cramped Chinatown basement that’s miles away from head office, which she shares with her only co-worker, the socially awkward/ sometimes pants-less Mason (Adrian Martinez). Renee’s also got a couple of really close gal pals in Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps), the trio often getting together to drink wine and let loose — heck, they even agree to join a matchmaking website that caters to triple dating. (I didn’t even know this was a thing.)
You see, the screenplay by first-time directors Kohn and Silverstein doesn’t paint Renee as some sort of hideous monster, instead it highlights that fact that she feels inferior when comparing herself to all the other 10s working out there in the fashion industry, chiefly her short-skirted competition, the knockouts at LeClair’s glamorous Fifth Avenue headquarters — which is where she wants to be. Scenes that see Schumer’s character stare at herself in unflattering underwear in front of a bedroom mirror, obsessing over her many faults and imperfections, definitely hit the spot, whereas others, where a baby cries at the mere sight of Renee in a supermarket line, feel a tad silly and over-exaggerated.
Everything charges after Renee throws a coin into a fountain and wishes to be beautiful, à la Tom Hanks’ Big (1988), which this movie references, and then takes a SoulCycle class. While peddling aggressively, Renee slips and bumps her head, the knock causing her to believe that she’s somehow been transformed into an über-babe, even though her outward appearance hasn’t changed at all. Unlike Shallow Hal, though, we never get to see what this sexier version of Renee looks like. Anyhow, to the bewilderment of her friends, Renee begins to act like a world-class diva, her newfound sense of confidence urging her to get her life back on track. Renee finds herself a boyfriend, Ethan (Rory Scovel), after mistakenly thinking that he’s hitting on her at the dry cleaner, and then applies for a receptionist gig at LeClair’s main office, a position that once seemed out of her reach. While being interviewed, Renee impresses the company’s current CEO, Avery LeClair (a scene stealing Michelle Williams, whose comedic performance is the best thing about the whole darn movie), Renee’s poise and self-assurance landing her the job.
As a coincidence, it turns out that Renee’s fantasy makeover coincides with an inclusivity line that’s being pushed by company founder Lily LeClair (Lauren Hutton), who’s intending to release a brand new range of affordable products, tailored to normal, everyday women. Also in her favor is the fact that none of the elitists working at LeClair cosmetics seem to know a thing about Target shoppers, aka budget shoppers, which makes Renee the perfect candidate to help promote and launch the line.
From here, I Feel Pretty travels a predictable (yet surprisingly sweet) rise and fall arc, Renee jeopardizing her relationships as she joins the ‘cool kids club,’ our ugly duckling becoming more and more irresistible with each new ounce of confidence she extrudes, Renee eventually catching the attention of Avery’s playboy brother Grant (Tom Hopper). While a romantic-rival like Grant would normally fall into the realm of antagonist, the movie ditches this idea quickly, filmmakers revealing that everyone has insecurities, these inhibitions making us our own worst enemy.
Ditching her usual crude gross-out shtick, Amy Schumer is probably the best she’s ever been, her ‘roughness’ making Renee the ideal foil for all those foxy corporate types working at LeClair, Schumer clearly not afraid to make fun of herself by way of strutting her stuff in a bikini contest, which Renee improvises in the midst of a daytime date. Now, let me stop for a second to talk about Michelle Williams, The Greatest Showman (2017), whose portrayal as squeaky-doll-voiced fashion CEO Avery LeClair demands a few moments. Floating around the office in kooky attire — a baby-blue dress adorned with pink flowers and golden retrievers comes to mind — Williams’ heiress is a different kind of diva, one who’s thirsty for an understanding of how regular folk live their lives, Williams delivering the kind of performance that should (in my opinion) earn her a supporting Oscar nomination come awards season. I just wish we’d spent more time with the dainty Avery, who constantly managed to delight and amuse.
Elsewhere, Rory Scovel, The House (2017), stands out as Renee’s unconventional beau Ethan, whose slightly feminine traits, such as taking Zumba classes, make him much more endearing than your traditional love interest, whilst Emily Ratajkowski, We Are Your Friends (2015), has a few good scenes as Mallory, a fashion model that Renee befriends at her spin class, who’s wrestling with her own personal demons. And oh, look out for British model/ actress Naomi Campbell who cameos as LeClair’s snotty CFO, Helen.
All in all, Schumer’s latest could have done with a bit of fine-tuning, mainly in its predictable third act, where Renee comes to realize that her ‘magical’ transformation has been reversed, with everything culminating at a fancy product launch. If you’re like me, however, and don’t mind a bit of sitcom-style entertainment every now and again, than I Feel Pretty makes for a perfectly serviceable bit of matinee viewing. Look, I get that Schumer might be the deciding factor for many, but at the end of the day it’s Williams’ stellar performance and a message that urges us to ‘look at ourselves with a kind eye,’ that makes I Feel Pretty one of 2018’s biggest unexpected charmers.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
I Feel Pretty is released through eOne Films Australia