I Feel Pretty has a whole lot of heart and is certainly well-meaning, but unfortunately falls flat with its silly plot. The film blends romantic comedy with a pointed satire of female portrayal in modern media. Star Amy Schumer keeps the laughs sprinkled throughout. She's very likeable, but not enough to make up for I Feel Pretty's deficiencies. It's too bad because the film engenders goodwill. Writers/directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein had a novel idea. They just needed more creativity to flush it out evenly over the runtime.
Renee Barrett (Amy Schumer) is a thirty-something, single woman toiling away in the IT department of a major beauty company. She's crippled by low self-esteem, constantly comparing herself to the supermodels that grace social media and fashion magazines. A freak and extremely humorous accident at a Soul Cycle spinning class changes her personality. Barrett starts seeing herself as gorgeous and slim. Her newfound confidence bewilders her best friends (Aidy Bryant, Busy Phillips), but charms her bosses (Michelle Williams, Lauren Hutton). Barrett's career and personal life takes off. The problem is that a once sweet and congenial person turns into a brazen narcissist. Alienating everyone who stood by her "uglier" self.
I Feel Pretty is upfront about its fantasy element. A pivotal scene before Barrett's inner transformation has the character watching the classic Tom Hank's film Big. It sets the audience up to willingly suspend disbelief and accept the premise. The problem is that the premise runs out of steam in the first act. The film then meanders around weakly while trying to achieve a story arc. The climax is stale and predictable without any of the sharpness of the first thirty minutes. I feel Pretty devolves into a preachy, wallowing funk.
The filmmakers have the perfect lead for this role in Amy Schumer. You root for her because she embodies a beautiful awkwardness. Schumer and the film have gotten a significant online backlash for portraying her as a "fat girl". Ironically, what the film is patently against has become its chief criticism. This is a completely misguided reaction to the trailer and commercials. Obviously, Amy Schumer is not overweight. Her character is a regular woman that feels fat and ugly, because she cannot live up to society's ideal for beauty. The grievance machine needs to slow down and see the film before drawing conclusions. The film is flawed in its resolution of her frailties, but it does not for a second depict Schumer's character as physically unattractive. Her personality becomes hideous, but that's just the reaction to her bloated vanity.
I Feel Pretty needed a rewrite. There was meat on the bone here to make a much better film. The ensemble cast, especially Michelle Williams, could have done so much more to shore up the plot. Instead the supporting characters are just reactionary to Schumer's shenanigans. There's a warmth to I Feel Pretty that peters away as the film reaches clumsily for an ending. You want to walk away with a smile and positivity, not boredom.
From STX Films, I Feel Pretty has a girl power; love yourself message that is easily embraced. It just doesn't make that lesson entertaining for long enough. Amy Schumer's brilliant comic skill and self deprecation are the highpoints. Her fans, and I'm one for sure, will be left wanting more from I Feel Pretty.