The aw-shucks fish out of water that we find in the latest Amy Schumer vehicle, I Feel Pretty, is far from original. If you’ve seen anything from A Devil Wears Prada to Working Girl to The Secret of My Success, you’ll find yourself in very familiar territory. But there’s nothing wrong with that, as the trope tends to generally provide the requisite warm fuzzies.
What hamstrings I Feel Pretty is that Schumer’s character, Renee Bennett, doesn’t find the confidence to go for her dream job until suffering a head injury during a freak hipster gym accident. So she goes from being hampered by her self-conscious/body dysmorphia issues to successful and feeling beautiful only due to brain damage. That’s about as delicate of an approach as Undercover Brother, and it feels really awkward.
On the upside, this is easily Schumer’s best acting performance to date. She delivers a range of anguish in her pre-injury state that reflects all to distinctly the insecurities I’ve seen far too many women struggle with. It just would have come off less uncomfortable if she could have found another way to battle through her self-confidence issues rather than getting bonked in the head. It’s a wish fulfillment story — one of wishing that she could be beautiful so that she would have everything she’s ever dreamed of. That by itself is problematic that she only equates success and confidence with physical beauty.
She misses the fact that she has steadfast friends in Vivian (Aidy Bryant, Saturday Night Live”) and Jane (Busy Phillips, Vice Principals), a good-paying job, and a nice apartment. Instead she’s only focused on being pretty so she can then launch off to become a version of herself she’d always dreamed above while perusing the pages of Vogue and GQ.
After she gets hit on the head, she then sees herself in the mirror and believes herself to have a supermodel body. It immediately transforms the way she sees the world. It’s among one of the gentler versions of the genre, as there are no particular antagonists in the film (beyond herself). The story arc is primarily her own eventual self-realization.
Any film that aims to encourage self-empowerment and self-confidence is laudable; unfortunately I Feel Pretty‘s hook is more akin to when “that” uncle at Thanksgiving dinner makes a very awkward joke at the table and everyone goes silent trying to figure out how to best get past it and back to the rest of the conversation at hand.
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