Film Review: I Feel Pretty

Super-trendy with moments of real feeling, Amy Schumer’s latest delivers.
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Helmed by rom-com powerhouse duo Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, the team behind How To Be Single, He’s Just Not That Into You and Never Been Kissed, I Feel Pretty is unashamedly a movie for our moment. Female empowerment, male insecurity, debilitating self-doubt fueled in no small part by social media, Soul Cycle and anti-elitism all make appearances. The effect is as trendy as a seasonal shade of lipstick—and effective.

Like star Amy Schumer’s breakout vehicle, Trainwreck, I Feel Pretty is too long; it glorifies its messy protagonist by imbuing her with an air of “realness”—if exaggerated, she’s just like you—though it purports to skewer her. Nevertheless, it strikes that note of relatability for which it strives so keenly. I Feel Pretty is a bombastic rallying cry for anyone who has ever fallen prey to self-pitying self-loathing. Which is to say, think of Schumer or rom-coms or rom-coms starring Schumer what you will, it’s a pretty human film.

Renee (Schumer) is an insecure single lady working for the website of a high-end fashion magazine called Lily LeClaire. The rag is so out of touch with the common woman it still prizes print and relegates the operation of its website to just two people, unconfident Renee and taciturn/sometimes pants-less Mason (Adrian Martinez), who work out of a dingy office in Chinatown. When Renee learns they’re hiring a new receptionist at Lily LeClaire HQ—her dream role, in a fantastic sendup of that obsession with fashion magazine jobs typically seen in rom-coms (How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, The Devil Wears Prada, 13 Going on 30)—she yearns, but doubts she is attractive enough to be the “face” of the publication’s lobby.

But in a fine twist of luck, Renee falls off her bike during a Soul Cycle class, slams her head and wakes up believing she is “beautiful!!” Filled with exaggerated confidence, Renee not only lands her dream job, she attracts effeminate and manly men alike, befriends her idol, the granddaughter of the magazine’s founder, and helps the brand survive by acting as an everywoman interpreter of sorts for this privileged woman (who is played by the brilliant Michelle Williams, demonstrating surprising comedic chops. With her Minnie Mouse voice and abstracted gaze, Williams is the standout. She and best bud/co-star Busy Phillips ought to collaborate on their own rom-com, stat.)

I Feel Pretty’s message is similar to the one stated in Bridget Jones’s Diary 17 years ago: “I like you, just the way you are.” Only here, it is the heroine who learns to say this to herself, before she hears it from her love interest (though, of course, that happens, too). Where Bridget Jones’ climactic moment of self-validation is restrained, deriving its power from the simple frankness of that line, I Feel Pretty is over-the-top, with Renee coming into her own onstage before an audience of several hundred people, giving a big, rousing speech. One can see how the culture has moved in 20 years.

But rouse her speech does, arriving at the tail end of a film in which we’ve watched moment after moment that will make many viewers think, “Yup, I’ve felt like that.” I’ve been ignored while standing next to someone who is more attractive, I’ve been intimidated by someone who seems to have it all, I’ve allowed someone else’s opinion (or what I assume to be her opinion) bring me low. After Renee suffers a second, inevitable head injury, which dispels the “magical” belief that she is beautiful, she stands before a mirror, looks herself over and bursts into tears. “I’m me,” she says, racked with sobs. This is the most unadorned and timeless bit in the film. Trends come and go, but our ability to destructively self-criticize seemingly never will.

Each act in I Feel Pretty drags on longer than it should. We know precisely what we’re waiting for, and while that predictability isn’t the problem (quite the opposite; its comfort is what we’ve come for), making us wait too long for our satisfaction is. Sure, the movie is funny, but it isn’t quite clever or ingenious enough to sustain us through too many scenes. You might find yourself squirming impatiently while thinking, “Just hit your head already!”

But overall, I Feel Pretty has energy, color and feeling enough to appeal. It also has the potential to provide real comfort, which is something we always need.

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