Movie Review: I Feel Pretty

A fantasy about a woman who thinks she is beautiful sends mixed up messages

I Feel Pretty (Jsem božská)
Directed by Marc Silverstein, Abby Kohn
With Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Emily Ratajkowski, Busy Philipps, Aidy Bryant, Naomi Campbell, Lauren Hutton

The notion that women should be valued for who they are inside rather than how they look can hardly be called new. But the film I Feel Pretty, starring comedienne Amy Schumer, pretends the filmmakers just discovered this radical idea.

The basic setup is a throwback to all those fantasy transformation films from the 1980s like Freaky Big, 18 Again! and Vice Versa, where someone is transformed without much rational explanation.

The main character, Renee Bennett (played by Amy Schumer), even watches Big on TV before hitting her head in a gym accident and becoming convinced that some miracle has transformed her into a someone that looks like a glamorous model.

The audience never sees what she thinks she looks like, but she compares herself to characters in the film played by models such as Emily Ratajkowski.

A big drawback to the film's claimed body-positive message, as the idea is called, is that much of the humor actually comes from making fun of unattractive people. Renee is depicted as being so out of shape that she can't ride a stationary bicycle. She falls off and rips her pants, and has to walk on the streets of New York with her underwear showing.

Perhaps to avoid accusations of sexism, she works in a basement with an introverted, out-of-shape man who also is the butt of cringe-worthy humor. Adrian Martinez plays Tasha, an IT guy who aside from providing a target for crass humor has the now-cliche role of the guy who can magically hack into some computer system with a few keystrokes to facilitate some illegal plan.

The plot takes place in the cosmetics world, where everyone of course has to look perfect. Renee and Tasha don't work in the main office in a trendy skyscraper, but in a windowless basement in Chinatown. What she does is never clear. It has something to do with online sales complaints.

After being hit on the head, Renee decides she is pretty enough to work in the main office and applies for a job. Her interview is beyond delusional, as she keeps referring to her modelesque looks, which she does not have. But instead of calling security to have the deranged person removed, she gets the job. Otherwise, there would be no film.

She has completely delusional conversations with her friends, going on about how it is really her despite the massive change that is only in her head. She also accosts complete strangers, ranting about her hot looks. But everyone just goes along with it politely.

The filmmakers themselves can't seem to to make up their minds about what they are trying to say. At times Renee is shown as being able to achieve at a high professional level due to her new self-confidence, at other times she is shown as arrogant and insensitive because she thinks she is better than everyone else.

There is a romance plot that is very hard to buy. For some reason a stranger, Ethan (Rory Scovel), who she accosts with her delusional rant about her perfect looks, gets mixed up with her.

Michelle Williams, who has four Oscar nominations, has a supporting role as Avery LeClaire, head of the huge cosmetics firm. She has to play the role with a squeaky voice, because of course that is funny.

Former model Lauren Hutton turns up as the matriarch of the cosmetics firm, in one of the few roles that actually depicts somebody with a modicum of respect.

Fans of truly bad films might recognize some of the plot from the 2001 Farrelly Brothers' film Shallow Hal, where Gwyneth Paltrow wore a fat suit, but the character played by Jack Black saw her as the skinny version. Film historians have pointed out connections to the 1945 film Enchanted Cottage, where unattractive people are again seen differently for magical reasons.

There is very little original in I Feel Pretty, and the message is a bit hard to decipher. The film seems to want to say to believe in yourself, but it also says to be delusional and obnoxious. You should respect different body types, but it is OK to make fun of them too.

People might find themselves laughing at some of the scenes, but for the wrong reasons.

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