I Feel Pretty movie review: Amy Schumer’s wild rom-com exposes the ugliness of the world
I Feel Pretty
Directors - Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Cast - Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Busy Philipps, Emily Ratajkowski, Aidy Bryant
Rating - 3/5
You know those films that hinge so desperately on to one thread, that were a character to say the most obvious thing that’s on everyone’s mind, the entire movie would collapse? These films usually involve some sort of mistaken identity. They’re films in which characters are confused for some reason and instead of one observant person just pointing out the error, everyone just rolls with it.
This annoying movie trope can be traced all the way back to 1931, when Charlie Chaplin conned a blind woman into believing he wasn’t a tramp, and, according to Roger Ebert, in 1972 made the Piazza San Marco weep in unison at an outdoor screening. City Lights is one of the greatest man-made creations of the last century, and I suppose it’s a testament to I Feel Pretty’s sheer watchability that I was reminded of it at all. But honestly, all it would take for the film - the latest from star Amy Schumer - to collapse under its own weight is for someone to point out that her character isn’t who she thinks she is.
Renee is single white woman, living in New York City, aspiring toward a life that she isn’t confident enough to claim. She stumbles when she talks to strangers, waves away opportunities because she doesn’t think she’s good enough for them, and because of this crippling under-confidence, is stuck at a dead-end job with no escape route in sight. All of this, she blames on her appearance - which is basically very Amy Schumeresque.
So one day, inspired by the 1988 film Big - the one in which a 12-year-old turns into Tom Hanks - she screams at the heavens to make her pretty, and the next day she wakes up a different woman - or so she thinks.
I Feel Pretty is tremendously fun update of the rather stale body swap comedy genre, but without any real body swapping taking place. Renee fully believes she’s turned into a bombshell, but to us, and the rest of the characters, she’s still Renee. Crucially for the film, no one says anything when she’s prancing about, going head-to-head with Naomi Campbell, and generally being weird.
By convincing herself that she’s transformed into the most desirable version of herself, Renee is injected with a confidence so great that she’s immediately able to turn her life around. She walks up to men and makes them feel stupid for not asking her out, she’s able to verbalise all her great ideas and finds that she’s taken seriously for the first time in her life, and she finally plucks up the courage to apply for that dream job at an NYC cosmetics company.
Yes, the cosmetics company is a little bit on the nose, but it’s a flaw that is easily wiped clean, just like the film’s preachy ending.
In an age when body image issues are mocked just as badly as the people who don’t fit into what is deemed ‘normal’, I Feel Pretty at least has its heart (and often, head) in the right place. Often, we see that these ‘rules’ have been decided by a society and culture that has grown up on an unhealthy diet of consumerism, and the film offers a very rudimentary, but sane, challenge to these ideas. It’s a little strange then that it takes the occasional break from this positive train of thought to mock Renee and her delusions.
While it never really peels off as many layers as it should, it makes the astute observation that, above all else, body image is a psychological and not a physical condition - as anyone who has ever heard stories of runway models eating toilet paper to maintain their waists would attest. In the film, this spectrum is shown with Renee on one end and Emily Ratajkowski’s character on the other. They might not look anything like each other, but they’re both affected by the same debilitating lack of self-worth.
As a movie - as a piece of narrative entertainment, however - I Feel Pretty is a fairly run-of-the-mill romantic-comedy, featuring several strong performances, led by Amy Schumer’s uninhibited turn, but little else. Her brand of in-your-face humour isn’t everyone’s slice of pizza, but I Feel Pretty has a more mellow heart than, say, Snatched or even Trainwreck.
Seen simply as an empowering tale and not as a revolutionary call-to-arms, it works. Finding a home for itself on Netflix is the best thing that could’ve happened for it, because as many of you might know, American comedies are rarely released in Indian theatres. Perhaps save this one for when you’re feeling sorry for yourself with a bucket of ice cream and a bag of cholesterol in front of you?
Watch the I Feel Pretty trailer here