I Feel Pretty Review
Imagine we could forget our body issues and focus solely on being happy with how we look. Imagine all it took to feel like the hottest thing on the block was a sharp knock to the head. Imagine - and this may be the most ludicrous suggestion of all - Amy Schumer actually appeared in a memorable comedy.
The last one we can get to later but the first two statements sum up the concept behind Schumer’s latest vehicle, I Feel Pretty, a film with a ‘message’ about loving ourselves and embracing our faults, all delivered from the lofty heights of an image driven Hollywood.
Once the trailer appeared it immediately sent social media into a frenzy (granted, it doesn't take much to do that) as people saw Schumer switch from hating pretty much everything about her life, to being head-over-heels with her looks after smacking her head off the floor.
The comedian was quick to defend the film and there is perhaps a little more going on beyond merely suggesting you can only love yourself by receiving a swift blow to the head. The reality is, if there is anything to be offended by it is the banality of the comedy rather than its clumsy attempts at addressing female body issues.
Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn’s debut film references Tom Hanks’ Big and effectively follows the same arc to construct a fairy tale-like story following Renee’s (Schumer) rise through the working world thanks to her sudden injection of indomitable confidence. When we meet her she is working for a large cosmetics firm called Lily LeClaire, stuck in a dead-end IT role in a basement office some distance away from the glamour of its headquarters.
Renee can’t even get men to click on her internet dating profile, let alone a date, and fantasises what it would be like to enjoy the perks of being as naturally pretty as her gym friend Mallory (Emily Ratajkowski). In all fairness, there are some parts here that some women (and men) will be able to relate to as Renee struggles to deal with aspects of her appearance that do not fit in with the image driven culture that dominates so much of modern society.
Another session at her local gym comes round and she jumps aboard her exercise bike pumped up by the instructor and ready to work up a sweat that will help her fulfil her body-image dreams. After misjudging her footing and hitting the deck Renee is suddenly filled with confidence, astonished by what she sees in the mirror and ready to show the world how incredibly hot she is.
From there it’s a series of heavily scripted jokes centred on her sky-high self-esteem, along the way bagging a boyfriend by the name of Ethan (Rory Scovel) and bringing herself to the attention of Lily LeClaire’s baby-voiced CEO Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams).
Schumer can’t be blamed for the poor writing that undercooks everything, from failing to tell us who Renee is beyond her superficiality, to offering at least one reason to give a damn about her ups and downs. More importantly, the vast majority of the jokes fail to land and for a film that lasts for almost two hours (with no good reason) the air is quickly sucked out of the room.
What separates great comedians from the rest of us is sharp wit. Without it, the humour becomes a series of amusing jokes that most people are capable of tossing around between friends. The type that are almost forgotten as quickly as they are said. The sort of gags Schumer has made a career out of so far.
Even when Schumer is penning her own material there isn’t much skill to her craft. The funniest performers have the talent to elevate bad writing through their own unique interpretation but as Schumer hasn’t shown the ability to do that so far, it’s unlikely to reveal itself anytime soon.
At the end of I Feel Pretty Renee delivers an impassioned onstage speech about embracing our faults and learning to love our ordinariness – except the people in the room are all fashionistas there to reinforce the toxicity of the beauty industry – the irony of which is completely missed. The message is kind-hearted, of course, but the way it is told and packaged inside a stream of lame jokes is in serious need of a makeover.