“I’ve always wondered what it feels like to be undeniably pretty.”
There’s been much backlash behind I Feel Pretty, and I have no doubt in my mind that the unconscious and thoughtless remarks – especially from misguided men – stem from an illogical fear of a feminine warrior spirit. Some say that the picture’s largely Caucasian populous isn’t representative enough of all types of beauty. Others have deemed the film superficial, wrongly stating that the movie derives self-worth and value through an entirely outward assessment. I Feel Pretty might fumble its delivery and its tone, but the message shines through a hilarious and radiating bulb of three ultraviolet truths: we love others more fully when we love ourselves completely, confidence is a locksmith to all hearts, and that happiness is a universal blood donor. Before you crucify the movie and its messenger, maybe first try opening yourself up to the message it’s trying to send. I doubt you’ll return it to sender.
Inundated by the supermarket racks of beauty magazines and online make-up tutorials, Renee (Amy Schumer) exists in a culture where she’s made to feel inadequate, as if she were more of a fixer-upper project than an actual person. She works for the fashion line Lily LeClair, tucked away in a basement doing web development while she aspires to one day work in the posh building on 5th Avenue. Some nights are spent at bars with friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps). On one occasion they stay in to create a group dating profile, and even after Renee delivers a speech about the false reality of online dating, they continue to drink wine and cross their fingers. As evidenced in the scene, I Feel Pretty offers logical discussion that – like in real life – becomes muted by the desperation to escape loneliness and the anxiety of comparison. Renee’s a bubbly girl; she’s also a sad one.
True to its 90’s era spirit, everything changes for Renee when she hits her head and wakes up anew. She’s physically no different from how she was prior to the fall, but for the first time ever when she looks in the mirror, Renee sees beauty. She sees worth, dignity, sexiness and self-respect. The confidence leads her into a romance with the guy from the dry-cleaners named Ethan (Rory Scovel). She lands a receptionist job at the LeClaire headquarters after wooing Avery (Michelle Williams, so great here, assuring audiences that all of us have insecurities). I Feel Pretty has too many loose ends and doesn’t fully develop all of its pieces, yet most importantly, we get to see a woman come out of hiding and not just relish the spotlight, but damn near command it. The empowering aspect of the movie overcomes the imperfections, mostly because like its protagonist, it simply doesn’t feel the need to acknowledge or address them.
Judging from the cackles and the guffaws of the crowd I joined in with, I Feel Pretty seems destined to be the kind of film that misses with some critics – because it’s overlong and too imprudent in spurts – while also connecting to audiences through its self-deprecating humor and uncommon connectivity. Anymore, I have a hard time laughing at comedies because they tape a “kick me” sign onto an unknowing target’s back. That’s bullying and it’s mean. And while it sometimes resorts to the same tactics, its humor is almost always internally directed, aiming a heat-seeking missile at the self-proclaimed hot butt of the joke. I Feel Pretty isn’t a great film, but it uses comedy as a defense mechanism and it knows how to laugh at itself, and better yet, encourage others to laugh along through empathy rather than out of hate. It comfortably dwells somewhere between smart and stupid.
Less beholden to the magic of Big and way more thoughtful than Shallow Hal, I Feel Pretty shamelessly tackles a tough topic from multiple sides, all thanks to the care of Amy Schumer. The point of the film revolves around perception. For Ethan – and hopefully for men like myself – it’s a lesson in appreciating every inch of your partner inside and out. For Renee, the journey is far more complicated, and it turns this seemingly simple story into one with surprising depth. I Feel Pretty is a 110 minute long Dove beauty campaign that suggests if you can change your mind, if you’re able to look past flaws, that you can change the way others see you and how you see yourself. We only get these bodies once. We might as well embrace them and all of the unique curves that come from our individuality, and as the movie suggests, have a hoot of a time while doing so.
“You know who you are and don’t really care how the world sees you.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5