Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 4, 2018)
Three short years ago, Amy Schumer looked ready to become a cinematic star. Already a popular comedian, 2015’s Trainwreck showed that she could headline a successful film release.
Then came 2017’s Snatched, Schumer’s second movie as a lead – and a moderate flop, as it pulled in less than half of Trainwreck’s $110 million. 2018’s I Feel Pretty continued this trend, as it ended up with a gross very similar to that of Snatched.
Perhaps Schumer’s next film will offer a rebound. After two commercial disappointments in a row, she definitely needs a hit.
Average-sized Renee Bennett (Schumer) finds herself lost in a world she views as packed with fit, beautiful women. This damages her self-esteem, as she thinks her looks make it impossible for her to get ahead in life.
During an exercise class, Renee takes a painful fall that injures her head and comes to consciousness with a different view of the world, as she now sees herself as supermodel gorgeous. This impacts her self-confidence and allows Renee to navigate the world in a totally fresh manner.
Going into Pretty, I found myself a bit befuddled by the way we’re supposed to view Schumer’s looks. In Trainwreck, we were led to believe that she was attractive enough to land all sorts of men, including studly John Cena and a “doctor to the stars” who clearly could’ve banged NBA cheerleaders if he desired.
Fast-forward a few years and now we’re supposed to see Schumer as a dumpy mess who can’t get a date? I know – these are movies, and obviously an actor can play different roles even if that performer looks the same.
Because Schumer ties so much of her comedy into her looks, though, this shift stands out as jarring. Perhaps this bothers no one else, but I find it tough to swallow the shift from 2015’s “man-magnet Amy” to 2018’s “can’t land a coffee meet-up Amy”.
Perhaps this issue wouldn’t be as much of a distraction if Pretty offered more entertainment in its own right. Unfortunately, this is essentially a concept with a movie attached.
And it’s not a terrible idea for a film, even if the notion of the person whose personality changes after a bonk on the noggin lacks creativity. Heck, I can find Flintstones episodes with that theme!
Lack of originality aside, the self-confidence Renee gains opens up a nice variety of comedic possibilities. At its heart, Pretty wants to deliver a self-empowerment tale that tells us how confidence matters more than appearance.
Unfortunately, Pretty comes with some seriously mixed messages, mainly because it devotes an awful lot of its running time to fat girl gags. Rather than focus on Renee’s strengths in an absolute manner, the movie pokes fun at her physical flaws.
This makes no sense to me. Maybe the filmmakers think that these scenes accentuate how Renee prospers despite her lack of objective beauty, but that message fails to come through, partly because Renee doesn’t really believe in herself.
Renee isn’t a character who recognizes her physical limitations and soars anyway. No, Renee is a character who only succeeds because she believes she’s something she isn’t, and that’s a muddled message to send.
Hypocritically, Pretty appears to embrace the idea that “hot women = bitches”. When Renee feels she’s gorgeous, she treats her friends poorly and acts like a jerk – apparently solely because she now thinks she’s beautiful.
On one hand, the movie tells us not to judge average-looking women based on appearances. Then on the other hand, it instructs us to believe that hot women must be cruel and selfish. Double standard alert!
The movie’s moral confusion gets combined with a narrative that lacks cohesion. The story flits from one area to another without much logic, and it all turns into a mess in the end.
It doesn’t help that 111 minutes seems awfully long for such a simple story. Pretty needs much better editing than it receives, as the movie meanders all over the place in search of some form of coherence.
Every once in a while, amusement results, but don’t expect much entertainment here. Pretty wastes a lot of talent on a confused message and it fails to achieve its goals.