"I Feel Pretty" Movie Review
From her early stand-up days to Comedy Central series, Amy Schumer made a name for herself by being as outrageous and outspoken as humanly possible. The more taboo and flinch-worthy, the better, and her career skyrocketed. So why does she insist on being so damn bland on the big screen? Schumer followed up the solid comedy Trainwreck in 2015 with last year’s Snatched, which crashed and burned, and now I Feel Pretty is sure to follow suit, taking a somewhat clever and potential-laden premise only to (yawn) play it safe.
Starring as Renee Bennett, Schumer strolls through the movie like she’s content just to be there, optimistic that its feminist message (which the script then proceeds to undercut—more on that later) is enough to get people into the seats.
Renee is frustrated with her appearance (she looks...normal?), mopey that her job involves her manning a website for makeup giant Lily LeClaire from a closet in Chinatown, and sad that most nights involve hanging with her friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Phillips). It’s not a terrible life, to be sure, but Renee spends most of her waking hours wishing she was as beautiful as a waifish, skin-and-bones model.
After conking her head during an unfortunate SoulCycle accident, she wakes up and believes she’s as beautiful as she’s always dreamed. Of course nothing has changed (it’s all in her head), but what she sees when she looks in the mirror ups her self-esteem, giving her the confidence to stroll the streets as if they were a catwalk. While she’s at it, she applies to become the receptionist at the LeClaire headquarters, coincidentally at the same moment that the company decides to launch a diffusion brand for regular Janes.
Before long Renee is being given creative control under the guidance of Avery LeClaire (a phenomenal Michelle Williams) and starts dating Ethan (an oddly subdued Rory Scovel). She’s entering bikini contests in seedy bars, she’s turning down what she thinks are advances from Avery’s hunky brother, and she starts treating her friends like crap.
And that’s when I Feel Pretty lost me.
The whole concept of the movie is that self-confidence is (or could be) all that’s needed to turn around the social stigma against women who aren’t “conventionally pretty”, and it works for Renee early on. But when she starts getting full of herself and adopting the same elitist and condescending personality of the "perfect" women she’s been railing against, it undermines the entire message of the movie. What if she conked her head, got a boatload of self-confidence, and was still a decent person? Wouldn’t that have been more in consistent and productive as a self-affirming message?
The other issue is that I Feel Pretty is based on the idea that it’s the woman herself who needs to make the change and that society as a whole (including the media and fashion brands) bear no responsibility. Add this all to the fact that Schumer herself doesn’t seem terribly invested in the movie (she’s outshone by virtually the entire cast), and the end result is a movie that seems to have its heart in the right place without knowing quite how to use it.