America’s sweary, small-screen sweetheart Amy Schumer likes her movies to riff on her on-stage comic personas. Having been a loud ladette in Trainwreck (opens in new tab) and a needy narcissist in Snatched, she turns down the volume as insecure loser Renee, in this fun, ragingly relatable chick-flick.
Comically snubbed by men, shop assistants, and prettier rivals, Renee is obsessed that beauty is the winning ticket in life’s lottery. But then a head injury in spinning class upends her world – making her see herself, Shallow Hal-style, as supermodel-hot. Flaunting bulletproof confidence, she’s soon bulldozed herself a boyfriend (an amiable Rory Scovel), and powered into a glossy job at a snobby cosmetics firm.
Flipping the body-swap movie on its head (with a nod to Big), first-time directors/veteran screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (Never Been Kissed) get a slew of sniggers out of Renee’s delusional buoyancy with bewildered best friends. There’s also a cringe-crammed job interview with Naomi Campbell (“Obviously, modelling is an option for me”).
But Kohn/Silverstein’s speciality has often been girl-friendly comedy: wry, observational stuff like He’s Just Not That Into You. In a similar vein, I Feel Pretty transforms women’s body shame into shameless yucks, as a riotous Renee storms a bikini contest and blitzes boyfriend Ethan’s lights-out lovemaking. Not afraid to make its audience uncomfortable, the film lets Renee be a pain, committing the ultimate chick-flick crime by swapping her loyal girlfriends (the eye-rolling Aidy Bryant and Busy Philipps) for glitzy high life. But somehow, through everything, you root for her gutsy, girl-next-door real-ness.
Outside the Schumer humour, however, the movie’s a bit thinner. Its limp satire of the cosmetics business goes for easy targets (snobbery, beauty worship, dim divas), though Michelle Williams’ Tweety-Pie-voiced magnate brings the laughs. And while the film dodges the trophy boyfriend cliché, the story is a journey of self-love – one that flirts with but doesn’t commit to its romcom elements.
A film open to everyone’s insecurities (even the gorgeous Emily Ratajkowski has a wobble), it also has no plot-driving villain. Snubbed or sassy, Renee’s her own worst enemy, making the film heavily dependent on Schumer’s schtick. Still, the script plays to her mouthy strengths, her fearless slapstick and her healthy, everyday looks. Always front and centre, she pulls the movie along to the point where you can’t really focus on any other character. She’s also the film’s greatest advertisement for its body-positive message, favouring self-esteem over selfies.
- Release date: Out now (US)/May 4, 2018 (UK)
- Certificate: 12A (UK)/PG-13 (US)
- Running time: 110 mins