Film & Television

‘I Feel Pretty’: A Bit Too Muddled For Its Message

Believing she’s been transformed, she begins to behave with the sense of entitlement reserved for the rich and famous, and in Renee’s case, beautiful. She applies for and gets the job as receptionist at Lily LeClaire headquarters. She gets a promotion. She gets a boyfriend. She gets an attitude, unfortunately, and ends up alienating her two best friends. In fact, she becomes a bit of a mean girl as she heads to Boston to pitch Target (another brand that’s featured a bit too much) with Lily LeClaire’s executive team. But, as fate would have it, another blow to the head and un-pretty Renee is back. She’s left trying to recreate the magic — and mend fences — looking and feeling like herself. Can she do it?

This may be the film’s biggest disconnect of all. Unless you judge by Hollywood (or, apparently, SoulCycle) standards, Amy Schumer isn’t fat. She has great legs, shiny hair, and a lovely face. In fact, she’s pretty. So to set her up as the ugly duckling makes us mere mortals feel a bit uncomfortable. If the film is supposed to derive its humor from the idea of a fat girl acting like a thin one, it misses its mark.

Not that Schumer isn’t funny. She’s great. But, she hasn’t been given great material to work with. Anyone familiar with her television series, her infamous take on aging in Hollywood (The Last Fuckable Day) or her first film, Trainwreck will be underwhelmed with Kohn and Silverstein’s script. Schumer does the best she can, though.

In fact, the entire cast is doing the best it can. Rory Scovel is earnest and believably infatuated as Renee’s boyfriend, Ethan, a rather quiet guy who can’t get over her never-failing self-assurance. “Can I be you when I grow up?” he asks dreamily. A number of “real” models are featured. Lauren Hutton plays cosmetics empress Lily LeClaire and Naomi Campbell plays the firm’s CFO. Emily Ratajkowski (best known for her half-naked appearance in Robin Thicke’s music video “Blurred Lines”) is a fellow SoulCycler, who despite her incredible good looks is unlucky in love. Phillips, Bryant and Zamata, previously mentioned, deserve bigger parts and funnier business.

Perhaps the greatest surprise is four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams as Avery LeClaire, the company’s current CEO. Rail-thin and perfectly coiffed, she glides through the office as a vision of sophisticated perfection. . .until she opens her mouth. As Avery, Williams has a baby voice so breathy, high-pitched, and cartoonish, it sounds as if she’s been inhaling helium in her trailer before every scene. She’s in over her head running the company, and she quickly recognizes that Renee has her finger on the pulse of the average woman, the target market for the new “diffusion” line of affordable make-up. Her performance is a delight, and I hope she gets a chance to do more comedy in the future.

Once the trailer for I Feel Pretty was released (weeks before the movie opened), it stirred up some anger on social media. Some people thought that the movie was fat-shaming. Others argued (as I did earlier) that Schumer is too attractive to be believable as Renee’s “before” in the movie’s before-and-after setup. Schumer responded in an interview with CBS’s Gayle King.

“I said, ‘Do not retouch me in this movie. Do not retouch anything.’ You see my cellulite. You see my, my rolls, whatever … It’s like, I feel great. And I just want, I want other women, other people to feel good about themselves. And I think walking out of this movie you really do.”

I Feel Pretty certainly has its share of laughs and enjoyable moments, thanks mainly to its fine cast. The script and direction, on the other hand, could and should be much better. And, as far as making other women feel good, it’s sending a mixed message. Toward the movie’s end, Renee delivers a powerful speech about women feeling confident in their own skin.

But, she’s doing so in order to sell cosmetics. So much for finding the beauty within.

 

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  • Natalie May 3, 2018 at 11:15 am

    It wasn’t an attack on the cosmetic’s industry. She was pointing out a flaw with the movie’s message. If the intended message is “you should feel comfortable in your own skin”, the continuation of that message should not be “so you should buy make-up”, but rather “you don’t NEED make-up”. If in the movie Renee is making the speech in order to sell make-up, then her intentions are contradicting her message.

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  • Jason April 25, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    You make some good points….Amy Schumer’s talent is wasted here, though it’s as much her fault as the writers. All she seems to have to offer any more is to tell fat jokes about herself or talk for 5 straight minutes about her own feminine odor on a TV special. Each project she does seems to be declining in entertainment value. However in your closing you attack the cosmetics industry as though you think that choosing to wear makeup is testimony that your own face isn’t good enough. What do you say when you put in your own makeup?

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  • caren gittleman April 24, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    thank you for this honest review. I am disappointed because I LOVED the concept of the movie when I saw the promos on TV. Might have to pass on this one.

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  • jessica heriot April 24, 2018 at 10:47 am

    I suggest reading the review in the NYTimes April 21st. the societal denial of the impossible beauty standards for women in faked acceptance of a more enlightened view of female beauty (a few over-sized models, the lie of “self-confidence will make you beautiful,” dieting now masked as wellness.

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