Being a woman is bloody rough, isn’t it? We are judged in just about every aspect of our lives to the point of epic personal mental health issues until we are crying into a box of donuts on public transport… or so flicks like this one would have you believe.
Sure, everyone has their hang ups about their personal appearance, some with more severity than others. But the problem is that movies like I Feel Pretty assume that if you’ve ever felt a bit shit about yourself, you should automatically build your entire existence around those insecurities until proven otherwise, and that all you need to succeed in life is to be (or at least think you are) crazy attractive. It’s all a bit problematic and infuriating, but hey, let’s dive in…
The story follows Renee (Amy Schumer), who desperately wants to be one of the “pretty” girls. After a freak accident during a SoulCycle spin class, her dream comes true when she wakes up to a completely new reflection, believing she is now the most beautiful woman on the planet. With a newfound confidence, she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, climbing the ranks at the cosmetics company she works for, earning the respect of her boss Avery LeClair (Michelle Williams), and bagging a cute boyfriend in Ethan (Rory Scovel). The catch? To everyone around her, Renee looks exactly the same as she always has.
Ok, so first up, Renee (Schumer) is a blonde, white, able-bodied woman of a very average weight and build. If her body is comedic and instantly shameful, then what hope is there for the rest of us?
While the crux of this movie poses that the joke is *actually* on society and the way in which women with different bodies are so differently treated, it still assumes that a physical appearance such as Schumer’s is totally vile until you have a massive head injury and get a bit of self-confidence – which is just total bollocks.
Problematic content aside, the film is just a bit beige (literally and figuratively). Written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein – known of course for other screwball rom-coms like Never Been Kissed and He’s Just Not That Into You, the execution is typically predictable, following the same tired tropes, narrative plot points and character archetypes.
Not only is the movie boring in a ‘seen-it-before’ kind of way, it’s also frustratingly un-funny. In her cinematic follow-up to the hugely hilarious Trainwreck, I Feel Pretty by comparison is just a big stinker and so massively removed from the comedian’s usual laugh-a-minute flare. The jokes are flat and never quite land, and in fact all seem to point the same punchline: “look how funny it is that Schumer thinks she’s beautiful”.
The performances likewise, are flat and un-moving, which is a real shame given the strength of powerhouse talents on the bill such as Michelle Williams, Amy Schumer and many more. You just don’t really give a crap about any of these characters. They are all fairly unlikable people – even the ones that are supposed to be sympathetic and reflect your own experiences with insecurity.
Trying to look at the positives, I Feel Pretty at the very least passes the Bechdel Test (meaning it features at least two women who talk about something other than a man). It places a woman in a leading role, and that’s good, but there seems to be very little other than that going for it. It doesn’t boast diversity in its casting, with some races massively underrepresented, and as mentioned in this (now, rather lengthy) rant, there are a flurry of issues within the movie addressing fat-shaming, skinny-shaming, mental health dismissals and just generally missing the damn mark.
It seems such a shame, when society seems to be getting shit done in terms of prioritising women’s issues and giving much needed attention to important and worthy causes, for a production house to chuck millions of dollars at a movie which rewinds progression in so many ways.
I Feel Pretty suggests that while we all have our issues, pretty girls are dumb, bitchy and bad business people, and un-pretty girls are smart, very friendly and are professionally more savvy. It tries unsuccessfully to pose that confidence is the real beauty, while actually saying that feeling confident and attractive when you’re a similar body type to Schumer (or even otherwise) is funny.
The whole thing has the stink of 58 producers all over it, trying desperately to capitalise on the body positivity movement, and instead engages every stereotype in the book with the opposite effect. At its worst, the flick is a wolf in sheep’s clothing for anyone with self-esteem issues, and at its best a lazily-written, quickly forgettable beige-o-rama.