An average woman with serious bouts of insecurity has a nasty fall at the gym and wakes up believing she is the most beautiful woman alive. That’s the premise of “I Feel Pretty,” the new comedy starring comedian Amy Schumer. From the sound of it, you’d expect a series of mean-spirited jokes, rampant fat shaming, and other nasty gags. Instead of plunging into a chasm of negativity, the film takes the high road and delivers a genuinely touching, thoroughly amusing, and oftentimes comforting journey of finding one’s self esteem.
The film’s strengths lie in its screenplay (by co-writers and co-directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein), a notably perceptive look at what life is truly like for women living in a world where looks matter most. Real life situations of humiliation, ones that most females have been through at some point in their lives, are played with relatable sincerity. There’s the random cute guy in the drugstore who’s chatting up the pretty mini-skirt clad brunette in the shampoo aisle, but to him you are invisible in your t-shirt and jeans. There’s your carefully crafted listing on a popular online dating site with zero likes because guys just can’t bring themselves to click on an “average” profile picture. There’s the snooty young salesclerk at a clothing store who looks down at your stomach and then scoffs that they don’t “stock your size.”
We’ve all been there. We all know how it feels.
The film tackles both serious and trivial real world problems that modern women face in an insightful and authentic way. Thanks to the bursts of heartfelt humor and the film’s earnest, inspiring message of self confidence, there’s a feel-good vibe throughout. Thrown into the mix is a deliciously gratifying send-up of the snooty fashion industry, an elitist world filled with airbrushing and plastic surgery and turning your nose up at anyone who can’t effortlessly glide into a size 4. The satirical take on our image obsessed culture eventually morphs into a brazen display of female empowerment, especially when Renee enters a bikini contest in a riotous “you go, girl!” moment that made me want to stand up and cheer.
I predict there will be much discussion about the film and accusations of excessive body shaming. Nothing could be further from the truth. The film is about having poise and confidence and never pokes fun at its heroine or her cellulite or her Target clothes or her goofy mannerisms. Renee fantasizes a dream world of how it must feel to be what she considers a perfect woman (manifested by Emily Ratajkowski as an acquaintance at the gym), with her tanned skin and windswept hair, model thin body and trainer fit physique. It’s a totally accurate scenario where women tend to romanticize these seemingly flawless ladies as unattainably beautiful, mythical creatures. Oftentimes when we feel inferior our low self esteem can manifest as jealousy that sometimes turns into cattiness. Think of this movie as a wake up call to females everywhere to try kindness over snark, to stop putting each other down — because one of the biggest enemies of self confidence is born from the glaring eyes of other women.
Schumer has her fair share of very vocal detractors but no matter if you’re an online hater or a diehard fan, there’s no denying that this is her movie through and through. This role plays to her strengths and she runs away with it, bringing an accomplished sense of both pitch-perfect comedic timing as well as a natural knack for physical humor. Schumer brings Renee to life with a blend of self-deprecation and sincerity, delivering what is categorically her best work to date.
This is also one of the first female-centric rom-coms in recent memory to portray its male characters total credibility. Renee’s love interest (Rory Scovel) feels like the ubiquitous guy next door that we all have crossed paths with in our lives, an affable nerd who is struggling with his own set of insecurities. Ditto for Renee’s friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps), her wing women and besties who are often dismissed as plain Janes with “great personalities.” Their friendship feels pure and honest with a deeply rooted emotional connection.
The plot is mostly predictable with zero surprises because there are relationships that need to be righted and life lessons to be learned, after all. As the film rushes to wrap up everything in a tidy bow, it becomes a bit of a groan-inducing cliché towards the end. But nothing can detract from the overall positive, powerful message that encourages all young women to quash their competence in the art of self-criticism and learn to love themselves.
“I Feel Pretty” is a comedy with something meaningful to say, a film that asks us all to stop being our own worst critics, to stop hating our real and imagined flaws, and to be kind to each other. The film’s core message that all we need is a little confidence to make it through this crazy world is sure to resonate with moviegoers of all ages.