I’ll admit I was skeptical about whether Amy Schumer’s comedy would translate to the PG-13 context of her latest film I Feel Pretty, especially since it’s written and directed by the same team that penned He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day. Turns out I needn’t have worried, because this movie has laughs from everywhere.
Schumer plays Renee Bennett, a downtrodden website programmer with body-image issues. No wonder she has those, since she works for a cosmetics company and yearns to be as beautiful as the models who wear their products. However, she hits her head one day as she falls off her bike at SoulCycle, and when she comes to, she thinks she’s the hottest woman in the world. Armed with her new artificial sense of confidence, she applies to her dream job as front-desk receptionist for her employer’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Her office is full of slender women who throw shade at her, but Renee just doesn’t hear it when they do, and it just so happens that the company is branching out to middle-class customers like her.
I’ve been watching body-positive comedies since the 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor, and I have to say that this one doesn’t do anything particularly new. The core message isn’t expanded or delivered in any innovative way; of course Renee’s going to discover that the gorgeous girl at her exercise class (Emily Ratajkowski) has problems just like everybody else. Her rise into the corporate hierarchy of her female-dominated workplace doesn’t yield anything of note. We know that something’s going to restore Renee back to her old self-hating self, and the way this is done isn’t accomplished in any surprising way. The climactic speech she has about accepting ourselves is a real missed opportunity. Nothing in this movie couldn’t have been said back in the mid-’90s. Couldn’t the filmmakers at least have acknowledged that our Instagram world is a different place? I mean, Schumer herself has done more subversive stuff about female objectification on her TV show:
Ah, but enough carping; any movie that makes me laugh out loud this much has me on its side. The supporting cast isn’t all winners, but more than a few of them ping with their own funny business: Sasheer Zamata as a freaked-out SoulCycle employee, Adrian Martinez as an antisocial slob of a colleague, Rory Scovel as the scrawny guy Renee meets at the dry cleaner’s and sets her sights on, Aidy Bryant as one of her supportive friends. Least expected and most wonderful of all is Michelle Williams as the cosmetics company’s heiress, CEO, and modeling face. You might not have figured Williams for the part of a glamorous fashion plate, but she turns it into a Saturday Night Live-worthy turn, speaking in a baby voice and delivering her lines to the ceiling. The same actress who was so wrenching in Manchester by the Sea looks like she’s been doing this sort of broad comedy for years, and it’s worth it just to hear her mispronounce “Kohl’s”.
Schumer fires off wisecracks and shows off her strengths as a physical comic, whether it’s taking a group photo with her girlfriends or having a painful initial mishap with the SoulCycle bike. I Feel Pretty may fail at starting any sort of cultural conversation, but it’s a perfectly agreeable comedy for a spring weekend.
I Feel Pretty
Starring Amy Schumer and Michelle Williams. Written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein. Rated PG-13.