I Feel Pretty (2018) Review
DOESN’T EVEN GO SKIN DEEP
What does it mean it pretty? What does it mean to me beautiful in another’s eyes? What will it take (personally) to achieve that goal? How are you willing to go reach that status? These types of questions made be dubbed “superfluous” by some to even pose such a question, but it’s almost a universal / fundamental question that all everyone asks themselves (be it publicly or in private). The sayings that “Beauty is only skin deep” and “It’s what on the inside that counts” are always positive reinforcements to oneself, but it’s hard to measure what many deem as “beautiful”, especially with society’s almost jaded views on prettiness. This can cause a person to have low self-esteem / self-worth, lacking the confidence to go out and face the world without being judged by the public. This is even further judged harder given the rise of the various social media outlets in today’s world, body shamming individuals and objectifying people. Again, it’s really a universal question that literally almost everyone asks themselves regardless of gender, sex, religion, monetary status, or political stance. In the world of Hollywood movies, films have usually tackled such ideas in a wide variety feature films from hard-hitting dramas to more lighthearted romantic comedies. Now STX films and Huayi Brothers Pictures and duo directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein present the newest motion picture to present such self-identity issues with the film I Feel Pretty. Does this movie tackle its message head on with cinematic warmth and heart or is it just a shallow endeavor from Hollywood?
Renee Barrett (Amy Schumer) is a plus-size woman low-level tech employee for LeClaire, a famous high-end cosmetics company. While she has good friendships with Vivan (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Phillips) to pal around with, Renee suffers from terrible self-esteem, seeing the world where woman who are only pretty and thin are able to go far. While trying to have her wish granted to be pretty and beautiful, Renee receives a head injury in her spin class instead, coming to with a newfound sense of in her looks, under the belief that her wish was granted and is now a total knockout. Bursting with a sense of explosive and charismatic confidence, Renee decides to her life into focus, finding a boyfriend in Ethan (Rory Scovel) and a new job position as a receptionist for LeClaire, charming her boss, Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams), who’s nervously preparing a budget “diffusion line” for women like Renee. Endowing with personality and desiring experience, Renee finds herself in command of LeClaire’s future, but gets caught up in the glitzy and glamour of her new lifestyle, threatening her longstanding relationships with her friends and her newly minted relationship with Ethan.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (at least it’s suppose to be). As I said above in my opening paragraph, it’s really hard to say (in general terms) what is classified as “beautiful” and what is classified as “ugly” within a person’s outwards physical appearance, for everyone has a different interpretation of those two classifications. However, it’s definitely a hard thing to examine and / or talk about or rather I should say that its hard to be judged in that way. It’s almost like discussing the “haves” and “have nots” situation as sometimes pretty individuals (i.e. young, thin, muscular, beautiful, etc.) get more positive attention and admiration than those who are average, who are sometimes deemed old, fat, and ugly. Again, it’s a sad but true statement to be made on society’s views, ranging from kids to elderly adults (and everything in-between) as well as in both male and female genders. I myself faced small periods of having low self-esteem several years back, struggling with how my outwards appearance looks against everyone else. The key to solving it is not clearly defined (more or less ambiguous) as everyone has their personal struggles to overcome and conquer. Regardless, this whole bit of what is “pretty” and what is “ugly” is something that we (as members of society and of the human race) should not take lightly and not to objectify others.
This, of course, brings my review back to the film that I am reviewing, which is the movie I Feel Pretty. To be quite honest, I really didn’t hear much about this movie on the internet. Not much pre-release hype or marketing campaign until recently when I saw the film’s trailer in theaters sometime in mid-March (I kept on forgetting to post the trailer on my blog…sorry, guys). While I wasn’t completely taking in by the film’s trailers, it was something that I was curious to see. So, I had some free time on my hands and went to see the movie on a Friday afternoon (the first official day of the film’s release). So, what did I think of it? Well, it was just okay. Despite its strong and reinforced message of inner beauty and loving yourself for who you are, I Feel Pretty is a paint-by-numbers endeavor that’s too cliché and mundanely predictable to garnish positive cinematic praise for the feature. Sometimes it’s wholesome, while other times its shallow (and that’s not a good thing for any movie).
I Feel Pretty is directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, who have both worked together as film screenplay writers for such projects as How to be Single, Opposite Sex, The Vow, Valentine’s Day, and He’s Just Not That into You. Given their background in mostly a romantic comedy (i.e. rom-coms), Kohn and Silverstein make their theatrical feature film debut with I Feel Pretty, giving the duo a bountiful sand box to shape a motion picture that fits their purview of filmmaking story. Perhaps the most notable aspect that the film like has going for it is in its thematic message, finding the character of Renee struggling with several everyday tasks and opinions on her physical plus-size status whether that be going to spin class, getting a drink, or just simply talking to a random person. Additionally, in terms of humor, Kohn and Silverstein, who also wrote the movie’s screenplay, pepper the feature with humorous jokes and gags, creating a view sequences (i.e. a wet t-shirt contest that Renee enters) that are quite funny to watch. At the end of the day, despite the film’s many flaws, Kohn and Silverstein make I Feel Pretty breezy and accessible to all, finding an understanding its message should empower its viewers or just to simply entertain its viewers within the romantic comedy mindset.
In terms of presentation, I Feel Pretty is your industry standard for a modern romantic comedy motion picture, meeting all the requirements in its filmmaking look and feel. The movie itself utilizes the urban landscape of New York City as the central playground for the feature, having that appeal of a fast-paced lifestyle of which these characters inhabitant as well as the “hustle and bustle” of fashion world. Most of the main component people of I Feel Pretty’s technical presentation are commendable for their efforts on this project, including Elizabeth A. Allen and William O. Hunter (production design), Bridget Keefe (set design), and Florian Ballhaus (cinematographer). However, perhaps the most noteworthy for the achievement in the movie are costume designer Debra McGuire and the entire make-up team (Melinda Abreu, Kathleen Brown, Julie LeShane, Angela Levin, and Sherryn Smith). While they probably won’t win any awards for their efforts on I Feel Pretty, but their efforts in costume outfits and hair and make-up help the feature’s movie world believable, especially with all the characters (major, minor, and background walk-on role characters) that work at LeClaire. Again, it’s all good and meets the industry standards for a movie like this. It won’t “wow” you, but its pleasing to eye in background setting aspect and nuances. Lastly, while the movie score is good, which was composed by Michael Andrews, the films also as a few catchy songs from some of today’s current Top 40 pop songs.
Unfortunately, despite the film’s positive message of owning up to one’s beauty (flaws and all) and loving yourself for who you are, I Feel Pretty’s shortcomings outweigh those palpable remarks, finding this rom-com to struggle more than finding its strides. Perhaps the most notable flaw that this movie faces is in its very predictable path that its narrative follows. Like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, it’s a “tale as old as time” (especially in the movie world) of how a person desire something, get their chance to be that person (slightly being changed and / or becoming something they didn’t intend to be), and ultimately turns out that they either don’t want it (in the end) or didn’t really need it at all. Such movies who use this model of storytelling are Big (which the movie makes a reference to), 17 Again, 13 Going on 30, The Devil Wears Prada, and The Nutty Professor (both the 1963 version and the 1996 version). I Feel Pretty used this narrative plot structure to frame its central plot, finding the character of Renee getting her chance to be pretty and beautiful (at least within her mind). Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t really come up with any other creative differences to discern itself from those other films, which makes I Feel Pretty derivate and cliché. This means that the narrative the movie is telling is totally formulaic (familiar plot beats and triumphs and setbacks are clearly seeing coming) and predictable, which makes viewing the film (beyond Schumer’s performance) vaguely pointless to see.
Additionally, due to this overtly familiar narrative frame work, the film, though poignant in tackling a sensitive topic such as personal beauty and outward physical appearance in society, neither Kohn or Silverstein dig deep enough to find the raw / emotional distress on this subject. As stated above, it’s something that we all (regardless of our differences) struggle with, finding each person struggle on their own personal battlefield. I Feel Pretty takes the more standard / straightforward approach and only scratches the surface the topic of beauty in society, which is disappointing as the movie, given its cinematic platform, could’ve been something more meaningful than what was presented. I’m not saying it indeed to be heavy-handed in commentary message (I do understand that this is movie is labeled as a romantic comedy), but even a film like 2005’s Hitch or 1988’s Big found a balance between comedic bits and its heartfelt drama message. Thus, and it’s sad to say that I Feel Pretty ultimately becomes a shallow endeavor from Hollywood, wanting to express a powerful idea that gets watered down into something less desirable (i.e. shiny on its surface, but lacking meaning underneath). Personally, I think a movie, which decides to tackle an issue like this, should’ve been presented like How to Be Single (i.e. varying characters to follow with different viewpoints and are handled in different situations) to get a more diverse and well-rounded collective knowledge in a cinematic story.
Even looking pass the narrative structure, I Feel Pretty has numerous sub-plot threads that don’t ultimately pan out correctly or rather entirely fleshed out. This means that certain characters aren’t fully realized and mostly there to serve the film’s story (either in a particular scene and / or to drive the narrative forward), but more on the below. Also, the film’s humorous have a certain “hit or miss” for majority of the feature, finding some work well and some just landed with a terrible thud. Lastly, while the film has a runtime of one hour and fifty minutes long, the movie’s third act is too bloated, lacking guidance through much of this point. The film’s climactic ending scene is finally where Kohn and Silverstein drive the message home, but it’s a bit “too little, too late” to give a resounding feel to it (in both real-life context and in the movie itself) and doesn’t resonate as strong as it could’ve been. To get to that point, however, the story meanders through some off-beat moments that don’t quite work well and are pointless, making much of the first part of the third act dull and boring.
The cast in I Feel Pretty has some recognizable names and, for the most part, succeed in their acting talents and ability to make these characters come to life. Unfortunately, Kohn and Silverstein (remember they wrote the screenplay) make some of these characters shallow and / or underdeveloped, which makes actors and actresses themselves either uninteresting or superfluous. At the head of the pack and headlining the feature is standup comedian / actress Amy Schumer as the movie’s main protagonist Renee Barrett. Known for her raunchy stand-up comedy acts as well as her roles in Trainwreck, Snatched and Thank You for Your Service, Schumer seems like the ideal choice for the character of Renee. Not just being a plus-sized actress, but in also how she delivers her lines (in a sincere and honest way), which does help sell the movie’s underlining message of inner beauty. All in all, Schumer is fine in the role and certainly does handle herself well, carrying much of the film on her shoulders for large chunks of the feature. Still, isn’t quite her best work on-screen as she’s more comfortable being raunchy and taking about awkward sex stuff (like in Trainwreck) than trying to convey a character with low self-esteem. However, at the end of the day, Schumer’s Renee is probably one of the best built-up characters written (and acted) in I Feel Pretty. Alongside Schumer is actor Rory Scovel, who plays Renee’s love interest Ethan. Known for his roles in The House, Those Who Can’t, and Dean, Scovel does indeed have an earnest and likeable quality of acting, making his character of Ethan somewhat endearing to watch on-screen throughout the feature. To be quite honest, I was a little more interested in see more of the character of Ethan as the film hints that there more to him than what’s presented, finding himself (Ethan) lacking confidence and a bit awed for Renee’s explosive self-confidence. It’s almost like there could’ve been a whole entire movie written from Ethan’s point of view, which would be quite interesting. Additionally, the on-screen chemistry between Schumer and Scovel is pretty good, with each one having a good rapport back-and-forth banter.
Of the more supporting characters, the most noticeable that has the biggest role is actress Michelle Williams, who plays Avery LeClaire, the elitist CEO of LeClaire beauty make-up. Known of her roles in All the Money in the World, The Greatest Showman, and My Week with Marilyn, Williams is an actress that I do like as she’s proven herself to handle such juicy and / or intriguing character roles throughout her character. Plus, she can does bring those characters to life with her solid acting ability. Unfortunately, and its sad for me to say this, but her involvement in I Feel Pretty is a disappointing one. For starters, her character is written really weak and unappealing. She’s given a small subplot for her character of Avery to tackle and ultimately come through by the film’s ending, but it just seems totally uninteresting and vague registers in the movie’s grand scheme. As for her acting, Williams uses a weird sounding voice to giver her character a somewhat defect quirk. It’s just really odd sounding (coming from her) and doesn’t really match her; acting more as gimmicky attribute. Basically, Williams’s Avery LeClaire tries to be vaguely like Meryl Streep’s Miranda Tate from The Devils Wears Prada (i.e. snooty, elitist, and looks down on people, etc.), but fails miserably (in both fleshing out he character and in performance-wise). Again, such a disappointment. Then there is actor Tom Hopper, another actor that I really like, who plays Avery’s brother Grant LeClaire. Known for his roles Black Sails, Game of Thrones, and Merlin, Hopper’s character of Grant is woefully underwritten; only to serve I Feel Pretty’s story in one particular scene, which me wonder on why create such a character in the first place. However, unlike Williams’s Avery, Hopper acting ability isn’t called into question, playing the character of Grant as rich bad boy / playboy archetype character. Again, it’s not so much on Hopper’s fault, but rather on how poorly written and underutilized in the feature.
The rest of the cast are in more smaller supporting roles, including actress Lauren Hutton (American Giglio and 54) as Avery and Grant’s grandmother and founder of LeClaire make-up Lily LeClaire, actress Emily Ratajkowski (We Are Your Friends and Entourage) as Mallory (pretty girl that Renee meets several times (and almost admires), actor Adrian Martinez (Focus and iGilbert) as Renee’s lowly IT co-worker Mason, actress Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live and Girls) and Busy Phillips (Cougar Town and Made of Honor) as Renee’s two best friends Vivian and Jane. While limited to character development, most of these characters have their moments in the spotlight (some more than others) and fill out the edges of I Feel Pretty’s characters, with each one given fine performances in their respective roles.
Amy Schumer’s Renee Barrett gets her moment to feel beautiful (at least to live out her disillusioned fantasy in her head) and gain the self-confidence she has always wanted in the film I Feel Pretty. Director Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein directorial debut feature film releases sees the pair crafting a motion picture that plays up the common troupe of a character getting their wish and learning the joys and pitfalls that it comes out of that outcome. As stated, the movie’s positives hit when it talks about the personal views that society has on what is deemed either “pretty” or “ugly”, which can be reflected in almost any viewer out there. Unfortunately, despite a strong performance from Schumer and Scovel, the film never goes below the surface level on the concept and fails to deliver a meaningful tale within its poignant message as well as some formulaic and predictable plots beats that drag the feature down. To me, it was fairly adequate movie that lost my interest halfway through. It had its moments and was light and breezy, but, given its laziness and shallow context presentation, it’s really hard defining as a great (let alone good) romantic comedy in recent memory. Thus, I probably would give either a “rent it” for those who really, really rom-coms and looking for a tolerable “date night” movie to watch and a “skip it” for everyone else as there’s really not reason to watch this movie. In the end, I Feel Pretty is a serviceable romantic comedy that will most likely be fade into the background of the 2018 movie releases; a saddened turn out of events for a movie that has a good wholesome premise at the start that ultimately fizzles out and concludes on a glossy whimper.
2.8 Out of 5 (Rent It / Skip It)
Released On: April 20th, 2018
Reviewed On: April 21st, 2018
I Feel Pretty is 110 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sexual content, some partial nudity, and language