I Feel Pretty Review

The Plot

Renee Bennett is a woman struggling with self-doubt and physical insecurity who finds her career, friendships and love life dramatically transformed when an accidental blow to the head leaves her suddenly convinced of her own ‘undeniable beauty’.

The Good

I Feel Pretty is a watchable guilty pleasure that demands little from audiences other than casual attention and mild amusement. It’s also clearly a massive improvement on Schumer’s poorly reviewed recent Netflix stand up special. Further proof that Schumer is at her comedic best in cringe inducing situational comedy as opposed to when she’s left on stage alone for a lengthy crass monologue.

Those that appreciate Schumer’s typical self-deprecating antics will no doubt enjoy seeing her dive enthusiastically into another bucket of big screen shame. The wince inducing embarrassment of her slapstick physical comedy is at times excruciatingly awkward and legitimately amusing.

An enthusiastic and competent supporting cast also helps ensure that the film remains effortless viewing. Providing a steady backdrop of people and situations for Schumer to be humiliated or empowered by. Rory Scovel in particular does fine work as an understated and refreshingly plausible love interest for Schumer’s character, giving the film so much needed sweetness and heart.

The Bad

Like almost all of Amy Schumer’s past comedy offerings I Feel Pretty is an awkward combination of crude slapstick and wildly contradictory social messages. The fact that entire film opens with a joke centred on her vagina sets a trademark tone that obviously won’t have universal appeal. Though in truth the film is actually at its most watchable and amusing when it sticks to shameless pratfalls. It’s the film’s confused attempts at social commentary and moral subtext that have predictably attracted the fiercest criticism.

The film’s central premise has prompted inevitable comparisons with Jack Black’s 2001 comedy effort Shallow Hal. That film saw his looks obsessed character hypnotised to only see inner beauty, leaving him with a comically skewed perspective on how attractive people physically are. Given well documented allegations of plagiarism and ‘joke theft’ that have dogged Schumer in recent years it’s perhaps especially unfortunate that I Feel Pretty has been so swiftly dismissed as ‘unoriginal’.

The biggest problem is that the chronic punchline of I Feel Pretty is essentially how ‘delusional’ Schumer’s newfound arrogant self-confidence is supposed to be.  Audiences are expected and fully encouraged to laugh at the ‘brain damaged’ disconnect between Schumer’s unchanged appearance and her overly inflated self-pride.  The film can’t claim to offer a body positive message behind this trick of self-confidence because it’s overwhelming greeted with confusion, mocking and amusement by the other characters Schumer encounters on screen.

This has long been a fundamental problem with Schumer’s brand of aggressively self-deprecating humour. It’s impossible to deliver a sincere message about empowering self-confidence whilst relentlessly degrading yourself. Schumer’s comedy has a deeply schizophrenic quality that directly relies upon the very social, sexual and physical stereotypes that it claims to challenge.

Ironically the plot of Schumer’s previously abandoned live action Barbie movie was supposed to feature her leaving the Supermodel perfection of Barbieland and confronting body image issues in the real world. It’s hard to avoid the sense she was hastily attached to the first script available that featured the same themes. Whether it’s a product of Schumer’s self-crafted ‘brand’ or Hollywood pigeonholing her remains unclear.

The Ugly Truth

I Feel Pretty is a predictable comedy effort that manages to produce at least a few genuine laughs amongst a mostly muddled mess of meditations on body image and self-confidence. Though made with presumably good intentions and easy viewing, the film generally misses it satirical targets.

Review by Russell Nelson

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