I FEEL PRETTY

Reviewed by GREG KING

Directors: Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein

Stars: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Tom Hopper, Busy Phillips, Aidy Bryant, Lauren Hutton, Emily Ratajkowski, Adrian Martinez, Naomi Campbell.

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When the trailer for I Feel Pretty first hit cinemas there was an immediate backlash because many thought that it was making fun of overweight women and was engaging in a bit of body shaming, which ultimately proved to be misleading.

Rather this feel good romantic comedy delivers positive messages about body image and says that looks are not as important as who you are. It deals with issues such as body image, superficial looks, insecurities, friendship, self-esteem and empowerment. While some commentators and reviewers have compared the film to body swap comedies like Big, Freaky Friday and Suddenly 30, etc, the plot will remind audiences more of the Farrelly brothers comedy Shallow Hal, which starred Jack Black.

Amy Schumer (Trainwreck, Snatched, etc) plays Renee Bennett, a frumpy, clumsy, socially awkward and unhappy thirtysomething woman who works for a large cosmetics company based on New York’s 5th Avenue. But because she doesn’t fit their glamourous image, Renee is tucked away in the dingy basement where she crunches numbers and produces reports for CEO Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams), who runs the company which was established by her grandmother (former model turned actress Lauren Hutton). She wishes for the “miracle” of physical beauty, and her life is turned upside down when her wish seems to come true. Following an accident in a gym when she falls off an exercise bike and knocks herself out, Renee wakes up and suddenly sees herself as beautiful, with the looks of a supermodel. Unfortunately, everybody else sees her as she is, which is supposed to be the catalyst for some comedic situations.

Filled with a newfound sense of confidence and a deluded self-belief Renee finds a purpose in her life. She believes that her looks are the key to her newfound success and happiness. She gains a job as a receptionist as LeClaire’s cosmetics company and finds her advice to Avery appreciated. Avery has actually hired Renee though because of her ordinary looks, which perfectly suits her aims to launch a new line of products that she hopes to market to the “ordinary woman.” Avery’s handsome brother Grant (Tom Hooper, from tv series like Merlin, Black Sails, etc) is also entranced by her confidence. And Renee finds herself a boyfriend with Ethan (Rory Scovel, from The House, etc), whom she meets in a dry-cleaning shop and who is entranced by her sense of confidence. One of the few sequences that actually delivers some laughs sees Renee participate in a bikini competition in a sleazy bar and wins over the horrified patrons with her confidence.

I Feel Pretty has been written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (whose previous films include romantic comedies like Never Been Kissed, etc), who also make their feature film directing debut here. Their handling of the underwritten material is a little uninspired and uneven and the film itself is visually bland. This scenario fails to deliver much in the way of side-splitting laughs, although an early scene in a gym delivers one of the few highlights. The humour is hit and miss, and dependent upon cheap gags for uneasy laughs.

The role seems written for Schumer and suits her image, and she brings plenty of energy to the material as well as a hint of vulnerability to her early scenes. But her performance here lacks the edge she brought to her work in her earlier films and especially her tv series.

There are some good performances from the ensemble cast that includes Busy Phillips and Aidy Bryant, who play Renee’s best friends June and Vivien, Emily Ratajkowski (from Entourage, etc), who plays Mallory, a supermodel who is wrestling with her own self-esteem issues, and even real-life supermodel model Naomi Campbell briefly pops up to add authenticity to this world. Williams delivers her lines with a wheezy asthmatic like voice, and her quirky character is one of the stand outs in the film. She brings depth to the role. Hutton brings a touch of gravitas to her small role, while Adrian Martinez (Focus, etc) brings a poignant touch to his scene stealing performance as Mason, Renee’s lowly and unhappy co-worker who also has some self-esteem issues. But some of the characters remain underdeveloped.

Genuine laughs are far and few between, but Schumer’s force of personality and self-deprecating wit does manage to carry the film through some flat patches. But the big problem is that Schumer is just not that funny. However, it’s target audience will probably find plenty to enjoy here.

★★

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