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‘I Feel Pretty’ puts Schumer’s previous trainwrecks in the rearview mirror

April 20, 2018

Just a couple of years ago, it appeared there was nothing that could stop Amy Schumer.

 

Her big screen debut, 2015’s “Trainwreck,” was lauded by critics, and audiences loved it all the way to a $140 million worldwide box office; her Comedy Central show “Inside Amy Schumer” was thriving; her stand-up career was skyrocketing; and her autobiography, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo,” became a New York Times bestseller.

 

Then, it all just sort went awry.

Aidy Bryant, Amy Schumer, and Busy Philipps in “I Feel Pretty.” (Photo Credit: Mark Schafer; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved; Courtesy of STXfilms)

Her show went on hiatus; she was accused of stealing jokes; her big screen follow-up, “Snatched,” was panned by critics and largely ignored by audiences; and she made a Netflix special, “The Leather Special,” that was so reviled by audiences that some would argue it hastened or was entirely responsible for Netflix’s new ratings system.

 

So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Schumer’s latest film, STX Entertainment’s “I Feel Pretty,” seems to be flying a little below the radar.

 

And, quite frankly, that’s a shame because just as it isn’t in the same ballpark as “Trainwreck,” it is likewise nowhere near as bad as “Snatched” or “The Leather Special.”

 

Schumer stars as Renee, a regular woman with a regular job and regular problems. She works in the online department of a major cosmetics company, spends her time with her equally ordinary friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps), and tries her hand at finding love in New York City.

 

Convinced that all of her everyday issues would be solved if only she were pretty, Renee starts working to reshape herself. That process takes the fast track when an incident at the gym makes Renee believe her physical beauty matches all of the other positive characteristics she carries … even if nobody else can see it. Armed with a newfound confidence, Renee lands a promotion at work, and manages to meet the man of her dreams, Ethan (Rory Scovel).

 

The only questions now are can it last and is any of it real?

Rory Scovel as Ethan and Amy Schumer as Renee in “I Feel Pretty.” (Photo by: Mark Schäfer; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.)

Think of “I Feel Pretty” as kind of a reverse “Shallow Hal.” But rather than having other people’s inner beauty manifest itself as outer beauty, Renee sees that in herself and it allows her to operate free of her own insecurities and doubts.

 

I’m sure there will be some (or many) people out there that try to put a negative spin on this – people shouldn’t be obsessed with physical beauty, people shouldn’t allow their self-worth to be determined by how they view themselves, etc. But the reality is that people do focus on those things, in themselves and others, so any chance you can take to highlight that and remind people that it’s not the end-all, I think it’s a good thing – especially if it can be done in a light-hearted manner that doesn’t feel preachy.

Amy Schumer as Renee in “I Feel Pretty.” (Photo Credit: Mark Schafer; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved; Courtesy of STXfilms)

Where Schumer missed the last couple times out, she rebounded nicely this time around. Renee isn’t perfect, even in her “beautiful” state, but she is real. She’s equal parts charming and conceited, funny and serious, confident and meek. Schumer does an excellent job in bringing that out.

 

But the star of the show is Michelle Williams, who plays Renee’s boss, the decidedly abnormal Avery LeClaire. I’m going to avoid too much description so as to not ruin anything, but the on-screen duo shares a lot of the same issues and they work together – often hilariously – together, despite their differences.

Michelle Williams as Avery in “I Feel Pretty.” (Photo Credit: Mark Schafer; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved; Courtesy of STXfilms)

That’s not to say “I Feel Pretty” is the best comedy of the year because it’s not, and it won’t be later on. It’s got issues – it’s a bit long, it regurgitates a number of jokes (its own and some repurposed from sources of inspiration), and for as many jokes that hit, there’s just as many that don’t. There’s also some characters and storylines that are relatively superfluous and their inclusion takes away from the overall product.

 

But at the end of the day it preaches important messages of self-acceptance or not judging books by their covers, and does it while garnering a few laughs.

 

★★★ of ★★★★★