The backlash against Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty started the moment the trailer dropped for the American release. A quick look at Twitter shows it’s still going strong although, since its opening, there’s been a backlash against the backlash, ie some positive reviews.
So why the fuss? The premise is that Renee (Schumer) has low self-esteem because she’s overweight and her efforts to improve her appearance haven’t made a scrap of difference. At a spinning class, she falls off her bike and the resulting bang on the head has a major effect. To the rest of the world, she still looks the same but, as far as she’s concerned, she’s now fabulously beautiful with a to-die-for body. Now she overflows with confidence, with the result that she gets herself a boyfriend and a glamorous, public facing job in the cosmetics company she works for. But then she cracks her head again …..
All of which makes it sound like the film endorses the idea that being beautiful and confident is an absolute must: imperfection equals failure. Not quite what you expect from Schumer, who has been so vocal on the subject of body shaming. The proposition here is more body swopping but, just in case we’re not clear on that, the moral is laid out in words of one syllable towards the end: it doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s what’s inside that matters. And you wouldn’t disagree. Yet not only have we heard it all before, but Schumer gives the speech as part of a launch event for a cosmetics range. She must have had her thumb on the self-destruct button.
As a comedy, it’s reasonably amusing, but no great shakes. And anybody who isn’t stick thin will find the thought of Amy Schumer being fat the most laughable thing in it. Part of her appeal is that she isn’t size zero, yet the film does its utmost to make her look as podgy as possible. At the spinning class, everybody wears black – except Schumer, who’s in bright colours and pastels to make her look larger. And idea of her lack of confidence being a direct result of her weight can’t even be brushed aside with the adage that none of us are ever happy with the way we look. Even though that’s the thinking behind a scene between her (after her second bang on the head) and her impossibly beautiful friend, Emrata (Emily Ratajkowski).
I Feel Pretty never allows the potential for a thoughtful side to come to the surface. Schumer drives things along with as much energy as she can muster, but the winner in the acting stakes is undoubtedly Michelle Williams as the boss of the cosmetics company – thin, glamorous and heavily made up. She also has a high pitched speaking voice that sounds like she’s inhaled a touch of helium. She’s well outside of her comfort zone and thrives on it, with good comic timing and a more subtle style of getting laughs. While not quite as unrecognisable as Tilda Swinton in the equivalent role in Trainwreck, she’s still taken an interesting change in direction.
The sad thing about I Feel Pretty is that its heart is probably in the right place, but with so much of what it says is open to question, you wonder what’s going on inside its head. There’s some fun to be had – intermittently, anyway – but you certainly won’t rush to see it again. As both comedy and commentary, it misses the mark.
Freda Cooper |[rating=2]
Comedy | 12A | UK, 4 May (2018) | STX International | Dirs. Abby Kohn, Mark Silverstein| Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, Rory Scovel, Adrian Martinez and Naomi Campbell.