By HEATHER TURK
Front Row Features Film Critic
There’s a joke that’s been circulating around Hollywood for the past few years and it’s starting to get old.
That joke is that Amy Schumer is fat.
While the comedienne may not be model thin, Schumer is far from obese. In fact, with her self-acknowledged Cabbage Patch doll face, the actress always been pretty cute. Therefore, it’s a bit hard for audiences to truly buy into the whole “Who could ever fall for her?” shtick whenever Schumer’s on-screen.
Yet, with STKfilms’ new comedy “I Feel Pretty,” audiences once again have to suspend disbelief that Schumer isn’t actually adorable and buy into the notion that no one in the world could fall in love with someone who looks like her based on their personality alone. Or at least to an extent. What’s refreshing about the script by writers-turned-first-time feature film directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (“Never Been Kissed”) is that, while at first Schumer’s character Renee is shunned for her looks, she’s later accepted for who she is once she gains a newfound confidence about herself after hitting her head really hard during a freak accident in a SoulCycle class.
While it would be easy for Renee to look into a mirror after regaining consciousness and see someone who is stick thin like the women she envies, Kohn and Silverstein don’t make “I Feel Pretty” so cliche. Instead, Renee looks into a mirror and literally sees the same person she’s always been, just for whatever reason she’s finally happy in her body and thinks she’s beautiful. Although her newfound confidence confuses everyone around her, eventually people are won over by Renee’s bubbly new personality and go-get-’em attitude. Soon, she is relocated by her high-end cosmetics company employer from an off-site location to the main office’s front desk. She also gets a boyfriend (Rory Scovel, “Those Who Can’t”) and even earns the respect of her beautiful boss, Avery LeClaire (four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams, “Manchester By the Sea”), who naturally viewers find out has some insecurities of her own.
What prevents “I Feel Pretty” from being the feel-good comedy of the year, however, is the fact that as Renee’s love life and career start to thrive, she becomes too superficial and starts to lose track of who she really is. Audiences start to dislike the character and, although she never crosses the line of becoming so self-centered that she can’t redeem herself later on, there’s a good portion of the film where Renee becomes pretty ugly.
Kohn and Silverstein also spend so much time on Renee and her insecurities that they never really delve into any of the film’s supporting characters. Williams, in particular, is positively annoying as the soft-spoken, squeaky-voiced Avery LeClaire. Although viewers may feel like they should sympathize with the character—Avery’s taken over Lily LeClaire Cosmetics from her grandmother but is self-conscious about her voice and feels like she isn’t taken seriously because of it—she comes across far too one-dimensional for anyone to really care.
Williams’ BFF in real life, Busy Philipps (“Cougar Town”), and “Saturday Night Live” star Aidy Bryant are also criminally underused as Renee’s best friends in the film. Only Lauren Hutton (“Once Bitten”) manages to steal the spotlight occasionally as Avery’s grandmother, Lily, who is trying to help her glamorous granddaughter launch a new, more approachable “diffusion line” to appeal to a wider audience.
Weak writing aside, Schumer does what she can to keep audiences laughing throughout most of the film’s 110-minute run time, although many of the movie’s funniest jokes were already given away in its trailers. Even a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments can’t make “I Feel Pretty” top Schumer’s most recent big-screen comedy offerings: “Snatched” and “Trainwreck.” Schumer is genuinely hilarious, but the self-deprecating star has beaten the “I’m not as thin as other famous girls” joke almost to death at this point.
Even though it’s nice to see a movie show just how far some self-confidence can take you in life, a weak script and some questionable casting choices keep “I Feel Pretty” from reaching its full feel-good potential. Maybe if someone like curvy and beautiful “This is Us” star Chrissy Metz starred had starred in the film, the message might have been more empowering.