I Feel Pretty (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein have collaborated together before, but for I Feel Pretty (2018) they also stepped into the directing role. There are some really strong aspects to the film as a whole; however, it is not without some missteps. The main theme of “being confident with who you are” is both important and positive, but is undercut at times by some of the choices in the film. Still, by the end of the film, there was enough here to have at least enjoyed it.

I Feel Pretty has enough positives to make it enjoyable

Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer) is obsessed with outward appearance and is dissatisfied with what she sees in the mirror. She even resorts to wishing to be beautiful in a local well, and, after taking a major fall at a spinning class, she awakens believing herself to be the most beautiful woman in the world. The major element here is that she looks exactly the same, and all that’s changed is her attitude about her appearance – but the confidence she now exudes allows her to start living the way she’d only dreamed of before.

Even though Schumer has managed to create a lot of hate from the public since her film Trainwreck, I tend to still enjoy her comedy and she performs well in this movie. Although, there are times – especially in the middle of the film – where her character, Renee, becomes almost intolerable. Her newly found confidence turns to arrogance. In these moments, Schumer plays the character as someone who is clueless about how she is behaving, and it simply seems out of character. Initially, Renee had been depicted to be intelligent, capable, but simply lacking self-esteem. It damages the empathy we feel for her at the other moments in the film. Fortunately, Renee was able to win me back in time to care about the ending. While Renee’s character has a skewed perspective of the importance placed on outer beauty caused by the world we live in, every character in the film is suffering from some self-esteem issues.

It’s the other characters and often the subtle way their insecurities are highlighted that really stand out. Ethan (Rory Scovel) meets the now confident Renee at the dry cleaners. His character is ashamed of many of the aspects of his own personality and hides things like his Zumba workout. Even the first time that Renee and he start to be intimate, it is noticeable that he leaves his shirt on as he climbs into bed. Even the woman Renee idolizes, Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams), is seen frequently trying to compensate for her own feelings of inadequacies and admits to hating the sound of her voice. While characters in the film are often the best part, they are also one of the weaknesses.

There are problems

There are simply too many, and the time spent on certain relationships feels wasted and would have been better spent developing just a few characters a bit more. In particular, Grant LeClair (Tom Hopper) feels like a waste of time in the film and seems to only be there to add the possibility of drama. Renee first meets Grant after getting the receptionist job, and he is clearly surprised by her confidence and her ability to shrug off the rudeness of a potential model.  Yet, he is ultimately not a love interest, nor does he offer anything to the main story. More time dedicated to her friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps) or spent with Ethan would have strengthened the relationships that are supposed to actually matter to Renee.

The film does seem, at times, to be saying that Renee’s negative opinion of herself is correct. For example: in a scene shown in the trailer of her entering a bikini contest, it initially appears that the audience will mock her for not meeting the body type often associated with the contest…and even Ethan seems a bit too nervous for her.  However, her confidence and presence get the crowd cheering for her. Yet, the directors still shoot the scene as if to show her in a way that says she isn’t as “sexy” as she is behaving. This creates the possibility for a mixed message to be interpreted by the audience, which could potentially undercut the positive message it appears to want to convey.

Final thoughts…

Despite a lull in the middle and a few debatable choices with some of the characters and the depiction of Renee, the film was overall enjoyable. Scovel and Williams were definitely the highlights, but Schumer and Scovel had a lot of chemistry. I would have loved the film to have spent more time on their connection, just to enjoy the romantic comedy aspects of it. Still, I Feel Pretty earns the Decent Watch rating.

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