Written by: Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein
Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Emily Ratajkowski, Aidy Bryant
There’s a reason sayings like “you need to love yourself before others can love you” and “you are your worst enemy” remain as significant and oft-repeated phrases. Our self-esteem has a stranglehold on the way each person goes about their day and views themselves as a larger member of the community. It becomes quite the search to find someone who has never struggled with it with women suffering the most from physical comparisons. I Feel Pretty attempts to take this head-on and while it has its bright moments, it does not necessarily stick the landing.
Unhappy with the way she looks and the lack of attention she receives from men, Renee (Amy Schumer) suffers from an accident on a bike where she injures her head. When she recovers she looks at herself in the mirror believing she is stunningly attractive, which boosts her confidence, much to the surprise of everyone else around her.
Watching the promotional material and the build-up to this feature shows several different possibilities in play, including the chance for this to be uplifting but also an unmitigated disaster. The reason these avenues exist come from the reality of this being a sensitive topic for women because of their inundation of beauty standards from the media. Despite attempts to reclaim these standards, some rigid and ancient ones remain, like the obsession with thinness as the arbiter of beauty, but also health. Taking on this subject material should come with plenty of care and the upbeat nature of this story delivers a good start.
From the onset, it appears a bit wonky for the audience to laugh at Amy Schumer being confident about her body because, while she’s the average build of a woman, if you ask Hollywood, she’s completely undesirable if seeing who typically headlines romances. A cruelness remains present in this comedy, but most of it serves as an examination of us and the other characters shocked by her confidence as well. It asks questions of why it’s comedic for others to be flabbergasted by the confidence displayed by Renee. This typically gets reserved for individuals matching the beauty standards because they feel the most comfortable showing off their looks because they know others cannot speak against it. This attempt at comedy becomes multi-faceted in this regard and mostly works.
However, the film does find its struggle when it wants to create conflict in the story and the way it ends on its whole message does leave plenty to be desired. In a sense, it feels surface-level in its approach. Now, knowing this is a comedy, there can only be so much explored with it being a broad studio product not looking for anything substantial but this topic area deserves deeper exploration. Sure, the film simply just wants to be about self-esteem and that Renee has always been beautiful as seen by others, but the potential this film nicked throughout its story could have done something more invigorating. Seems like a missed opportunity, as a result. This mostly appears in how Renee, as a character, continues to progress and the arrogance she builds when having this supreme confidence, which adds drama to the story but does do some betrayal to what this film wants to evoke.
In all reality, no one was more suited to take on this story than Amy Schumer. Her career has proven her to be the bridge of what the average American woman looks like versus the Hollywood standard. Her comedic chops certainly came to play in the feature in selling the “absurdity” of the confidence her character portrays. By no means was she the reason why the film limped to the end, seeing as that lands more on the screenplay, but Schumer did what she could with the material and when it hits its heights, she helps meet it at the top but cannot save it when it sinks.
Without a doubt, I Feel Pretty comes as a noble attempt at tackling the issue of low self-esteem, particularly with women. Its comedy has a fine line it needs to walk without turning into shambles and while some of it lands horribly, most of it comes across as achieving exactly what it sought out to do. It, unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily work as an overall feature but the sparking moments in-between along with whatever gloriousness Michelle Williams was doing with her character makes this narrative a mild success.