The first trailer for I Feel Pretty was overwhelmingly met with a less-than-stellar response, given the flood of preconceived notions about the movie. Its attempt to preview a story about a woman who struggles with body image felt misguided, contributing to the backlash.
But the idea that the film would miss the mark on accurately portraying body image issues is uninformed and off target. Rather I Feel Pretty suffers more from an uncertainty of how to effectively end once the point about the importance of self-confidence has been made.
This leads to a mix of morals that eventually convolute and confuse the sincerity of the film. Thankfully, performances from comedian Amy Schumer and much of the cast keep things from spiraling out of control by adding a touch of relatable authenticity.
The main character, Rene, played superbly by Schumer, is an average woman trying her best at life but displeased with her looks. Then one day Rene hits her head and wakes up with confidence so profound that she sees herself as supermodel-level attractive.
Early in the film, Rene stands in front of her full-length mirror and undresses. She stands there, just staring at herself wearing an ill-fitting bra and a spandex bodysuit, and begins to cry. This powerful scene, which Schumer delivers with genuine heartache, appears to set a tone of sincerity for the film. But few other moments in the movie are executed with such conviction.
Notably, there is a scene in which Rene has quite the outburst in the middle of a busy hotel restaurant, and yet no one seems to notice. Because the movie audience feels her pain it seems like a directing oversight that none of the diners in close proximity to her acknowledge what is happening.
But Schumer serves up a great performance throughout. She nails scenes that allow her to branch out and be a tad more serious. But her real talent is the ability to draw laughs.
The majority of those come from scenes she shares with fellow comedian Rory Scovel (The House), who plays her love interest, Ethan. Their chemistry makes all of their interactions feel natural. Their romance never feels forced or inorganic.
The rest of the supporting cast turns in solid performances. Both Sasheer Zamata (Saturday Night Live) and Emily Ratajkowski (Gone Girl) play women that Rene meets at her local gym. She becomes enamored with Ratajkowski's character, and even publicly expresses her desire to be as "pretty" as she is, not realizing that she too suffers from being self-conscious.
Adrian Martinez plays Rene's co-worker Mason, and he may be the most refreshing part of the film. Mason is odd and quirky but not zany or kooky. He shares a basement office with Rene, and the two are forced to make the best of it. Martinez maintains a monotone delivery of such bizarre lines that every one of his scenes leaves the audience cackling in laughter.
Busy Philipps (Cougar Town) and Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) play Rene's best friends, who seem content with who they are and love her all the same. This is where things get complicated, however, as Rene's newfound confidence drives a wedge between them.
After scoring her dream job in the main office of a cosmetic company, Rene's confidence earns her at seat at the table with empire's namesake, played by Lauren Hutton, and her granddaughter Avery LeClaire, played by Michelle Williams.
Williams is undoubtedly a great actress, but her role in I Feel Pretty is tough to get behind. She's superficial, but she she isn't dumb. She's annoying, but there's a perfectly good explanation as to why, and that reason reveals her self-awareness. The fashion industry parallels almost draw comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada, but Williams' character brings it closer to Zoolander. It's not a bad performance, just unconventional for what audiences expect from her.
Hutton, conversely, does a phenomenal job as the founder of the high-end business, playing the character with a humanized empathy that is often vacant in similar characters.
As Rene sinks deeper and deeper into the life she's always wanted, full of supermodel co-workers and elite opportunities, she pushes away old friends by behaving as if she is better, or "hotter," than they are.
The message becomes murky at this point with the movie trying to do too much. A film seemingly about being body-positive and loving yourself pivots to a warning about being too egotistical. The setup for the main plot is so extensive that this second meaning comes off as a little jarring.
There's also an interesting moment when Rene ridicules Ethan for attending a Zumba class because that's for "women." That's followed later in the film with another reference to Ethan exercising with women. The jokes might exist to show how people deal differently with various types of shame, from body image or gender norms. Ultimately, Ethan is not offended by the quips, and they are not intrinsically shaming, but they feel slightly out of place in a film pitching itself as "body positive."
Message-inconsistency aside, there are also some clunky moments when it comes to Rene's head-trauma self. The character comes out of her accident with a bold confidence that seems unwavering, and yet there is a scene later that sees her surprised at how incredible someone thinks she is. If she's so blatantly sure of herself, it stands to reason that she wouldn't be shocked at being told so.0comments
Still, I Feel Pretty has a lot of heart, and it genuinely wants to make an impact on the audience. The film is rated PG-13 but could have easily added more adult humor to garner an R rating, but the filmmakers chose not to do that. That they didn't is admirable. Ultimately, this will allow more teenagers to see the film, which for the most part tries to convey they are pretty just the way they are and don't have to seek validation from anywhere but inside themselves.
For all its flaws, I Feel Pretty gets this exactly right.