I Feel Pretty (2018)
★ / ★★★★
Although nearly everyone should be able to stand behind the life-affirming messages that the film attempts to impart about self-confidence and positive body image, it cannot be denied that “I Feel Pretty,” written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, offers nothing of value other than an amusing premise involving a woman, initially highly self-conscious about her body, suddenly regarding herself as a most beautiful specimen after a head-knocking freak accident. It is exasperating to sit through at times because for a movie that preaches the idea of being proud to be different, off-centre, and unconventional, it fits exactly into the mold of a generic, forgettable comedy. There is nothing inspiring about it.
The picture even fails to take a risk in showing how the subject looks at herself in the mirror. At this point many viewers are aware that Amy Schumer, who plays the main character named Renee, excels at playing a brash, boisterous, inappropriate figure. She can tell a dirty joke simply by looking at another a certain way with her head titled at a certain angle. It would have been a fresher choice, then, to highlight her dramatic potential. Early in the film, Renee looks at herself in the mirror and sees disappointment, someone who is too fat, too plain in the face to capture the looks of men—or of anybody—when she enters a room.
There is a sadness to this scene but it is important that it be captured with honesty and grace because we all have something that we are insecure about. In other words, this moment is so personal, it must be presented as raw as possible. Instead, the most disruptive soundtrack booms in the background. Because the noise contradicts and dilutes a private moment, the viewer is not given a chance to connect fully with a woman who wishes she had another face, another body, another self. A comedy, too, must work as a drama because the human angle, the reason we care about the story, is embedded there.
I place emphasis on this example because it is a microcosm of what is essentially wrong with a work that should appeal to everyone. What should have been highly relatable moments are almost reduced to afterthoughts because there is almost always something extra, something busy, that is either seen or heard. This is why numerous modern comedies tend to fail from a humanist, certainly dramatic, point of view: They do not possess the ability to the trust the audience to connect to an image or a situation without having to add flowery fluff like pop music, in-jokes in the background, or narration.
There is nothing wrong with the performances. I liked Michelle Williams who plays the CEO of a cosmetic company; Busy Philipps and Aidy Bryant as Renne’s best friends; and Rory Scovel as the eventual boyfriend of the now-supremely confident protagonist. They sell the subpar script with enthusiasm to spare. I wished, however, that another fresh choice were made by the writer-directors: no drama whatsoever between Renee’s friends and herself after her “transformation.” The forced conflict between friends offers the audience nothing special other than an additional, and most unnecessary, twenty minutes of boredom.
I think “I Feel Pretty” might have turned out to be a far more interesting project had it been written and directed by filmmakers with a solid amount of experience when it comes to shaping independent comedy-dramas, those who are used to having a very limited budget to make every aspect work. A far more efficient, savagely funny, and fiercely intelligent risk-taking picture would have resulted since the filmmakers could not rely on tools such as playing the soundtrack to invoke certain feelings or having the perfect lighting so performers remain looking beautiful. Telling a story about embracing one’s flaws should not be this sanitized.