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Friday, April 20, 2018

I Feel Pretty

One of these days, Amy Schumer is going to find a movie that knocks it out of the park.  I have enjoyed her in just about everything I've seen her in.  I even paid for a full price ticket to see her perform in the Broadway comedy play, Meteor Shower, last year.  Yet, she can't seem to find a script that truly suits her.  Even her breakout Hollywood film, Trainwreck (which she wrote the script for), had its faults.  I want to see her keep on doing film projects, because I know she has a truly great comedy in her.

Now here is I Feel Pretty, which casts Schumer in a pretty standard romantic comedy role.  She's quite good as expected, and she even gets some pretty good romantic chemistry with her male co-star, Rory Scovel.  But the movie flounders whenever Schumer doesn't get the chance to stand out or do some comedy improv.  It's a pleasant movie, but it doesn't go any further than that.  Yes, there are some scattered funny moments, particularly from Michelle Williams, who is often hilarious as an executive for a beauty company with a constantly vacant expression, and has a voice so soft and squeaky that she kind of sounds like a drowsy Smurf.  These moments, while undeniably effective, seem like they belong in a much better film.  It's like we're seeing glimpses of what the movie could have been.  This is a movie that never offends, but aside from a select standout moments, never really demands much attention.

Schumer plays Renee, a 30-something woman in a dead end tech job for a fashion company where she works in a tiny basement room with one other employee, and is so insecure in herself and her own self image that she is afraid to go after what she truly wants out of life, such as relationships and a job in the company's main corporate headquarters.  Her main wish is to be beautiful, and to have people notice her.  She starts taking fitness training at SoulCycle classes, and while working out on her fitness bike, she falls off and hits her head.  When she comes to, Renee glimpses herself in the mirror, and suddenly sees herself with the slender and perfect body she's always wanted.  She is the only one who sees her this way.  Her friends and everyone else all see her the way she's always been.  But this occurrence suddenly gives Renee the confidence she has been lacking her entire life.

With this new-found confidence, she is willing to talk to the nice guy she meets at the dry cleaners (Scovel), and start a relationship with him.  She is willing to apply for a job as a receptionist at her company's main corporate headquarters, and eventually becomes a trusted friend and partner to her not-all-there boss (Williams).  She participates in a bikini contest at a local bar, and does a full routine that wins the crowd over.  I can see how these sort of scenarios could have been funny if the screenplay by the writing and directing team of Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (How to Be Single) had allowed these moments to build into truly inspired comic pieces.  Instead, the movie has to follow worn plot threads, such as Renee slowly becoming shallow and conceited, and generally driving a wedge into her relationship with her two best friends (Busy Phillips and Aidy Bryant). 

In fact, I have a question regarding the two best friends that I Feel Pretty never addresses.  Why don't they ever speak up and tell her the truth?  Not once do they ever bring up that she looks the same that she always did.  You would think they would at least worry about her, or wonder what the heck is going on.  Instead, they just give her awkward stares whenever Renee is going on about her "sexy" body.  Another thing the script never addresses is why does she not receive medical attention from the numerous massive head injuries she suffers that causes this self-delusion she goes through for most of the movie?  I say numerous, because naturally, she hits her head again much later in the film, which snaps her out of her fantasy.  This leads to the inevitable dramatic moments where Renee has to apologize to her friends, see herself for the great person she is, and make an inspiring speech in front of a room of people who cheer her for her bravery about being proud of herself. (To be honest, this last scene does inspire a very funny moment where Renee tries to make a dramatic on-stage entrance that goes horribly and repeatedly wrong.)

And yet, sprinkled throughout the stuff that doesn't work are scenes that genuinely do.  I liked the scenes depicting Renee's growing relationship with the guy she meets at the dry cleaners, and starts a shy romance with.  Both Schumer and Scovel have an unassuming romantic chemistry that is very charming, and it made me want to see a movie that just focused entirely on their relationship, without any magical head injuries.  It's like the screenwriters created this likable couple, but weren't sure if they would be able to hold our attention for a full movie, so they kept on adding a lot of additional and unwanted elements to the script.  And every time Michelle Williams is on screen, the movie automatically comes to life, thanks to her inspired comic performance.  There is stuff to admire here, and I honestly wish there was more. 

Like I said, I want to see Schumer succeed.  She never fails to entertain me, even if the movie itself isn't so hot.  I Feel Pretty is too uneven for me to call it a success, but I also can't completely write it off.  You almost wish the script had gotten a few more rewrites before it went on ahead.  The filmmakers were really close to making a winning comedy here, but they come up short.

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