The message that Amy Schumer’s latest movie, I Feel Pretty, is trying to convey is that looks are irrelevant and that believing in yourself (with confidence) is all that you need to get by in life. Fine. Unfortunately, here is a message that’s delivered with confusion and contradiction, and as a result, delivered to deafening silence.
Schumer plays Renee, a supposedly “average-looking” and overweight woman who works in the basement of a renowned cosmetic company. Considered to be too ugly to work up top, she spends her days daydreaming about a better life. When she suffers a concussion at a spin-cycle class, she wakes up believing that she is insatiably gorgeous and the envy of the world. Her misplaced confidence sees her strutting her imagined “attractive” self from one situation to another, unaware that she actually looks the same.
It’s a flimsy premise that attempts to convert the magic-realism genre… and by attempts, I mean fails. It’s a brand of comedy that has been done countless times to varying effect and with the current shift in social expectations, I Feel Pretty had the opportunity to exploit a popular movement. But rather than being a message of empowerment, its messages are mixed and it comes bearing a scathing and unpleasant conclusion.
Examples of Renee’s experiences include absolute strangers assuming they have entered the wrong building when they see a bigger receptionist behind the desk and fitness instructors giving her disapproving looks because of her weight. Being an average-sized male, obviously I can’t possibly relate to the judgment that so many women face, but from an average viewer’s perspective, there was absolutely no realistic legitimacy to this character’s struggle. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while Schumer certainly does reflect the every-day woman, she is far from ugly and far from being fat. For her to be exposed to a daily ritual of ridicule, insult and torment, to the extent it’s depicted here, is simply unconvincing.
While watching the movie, I had to remind myself to suspend disbelief and convinced myself to go along with the premise. It was a tough ask and were it not for the fantastic performance from her leading man, Rory Scovel, there would have been no reason for me to stick it out to the end. My expectations were for a mildly amusing, possibly endearing dramatic comedy, but I was met with Schumer’s trademark self-depreciation and an onslaught of fat shaming. It’s peculiar that, given Schumer is a self-prescribed crusader against such behaviour, she would use such awful conduct for the punchlines.
The cast includes Busy Phillips, Aidy Bryant, Tom Hopper, Emily Ratajkowski, Lauren Hutton and Michelle Williams, the latter of whom conjures a cringe-worthy, put-on voice that will send dogs into a panic. These co-stars offer very little as an ensemble. Perhaps they signed on because it was an “Amy Schumer” title, or maybe they felt strongly about the message – who knows? I bet they all sank in to their seats on premiere night. Heck, the movie doesn’t even have any reliable smut humour to hold the viewer’s attention.
There isn’t much to add. Needless to say, I Feel Pretty is a total misfire and a sure contender for a well-deserved Razzie Award or two. The marks it does get are for Scovel and Bryant, whose talents are wasted. And for those of you game enough to disregard the warning, you can keep an eye out for the one and only laugh this writer had throughout the entire 110-running time. Here’s a hint: #StarJump.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★☆☆☆☆
‘I Feel Pretty’ opened in Australian cinemas on April 19 and hit US cinemas on April 20.