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"I Feel Pretty" (2018) Review

AnotherfilmnerdComment
"I Feel Pretty" (2018) Review

Watching ‘I Feel Pretty’ is an awkward experience. Putting aside the problematic nature of the film itself, it’s an uneasy beast clutching at too many comedic straws. It attempts to play like a contemporary, self-aware, high-concept romantic comedy but lifts almost all of its beats from any number of 80s body-swap comedies (‘Teen Wolf’, ‘Big’ and many, many, many others).

Strangely enough, the core concept is nowhere near as misguided as it sounds. Yes, Amy Schumer plays a woman who only believes she’s ‘pretty’ as a result of severe head trauma. But, as the film sometimes sensitively shows, it’s not that she’s considered ugly - it’s because she doesn’t believe the character is ‘pretty’ when, in actual fact, she is. Unfortunately, the pro-body image message isn’t supported by large chunks of the film itself.

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Once Schumer gets conked on the noggin, there are plenty of gags revolving around Schumer discovering her newfound ‘hotness’ (we never see the ‘hot’ Schumer on-screen, just her reaction to her supposed transformation).

Not only is the comedy clunky (physical comedy really isn’t her strong point), but the premise of the jokes often appear to be “hey look, the ugly person thinks she’s cute!” This doesn’t work for two reasons; the first being it undercuts the whole pro-self body image message the film seems so desperate to convey. Secondly the supposedly ‘ugly’ person is, y’know, Amy Schumer, who is most definitely not ugly - in and of itself this is bizarre, but when you realise one of Schumer’s friends in the movie, played by the definitely-not-ugly-in-fact-definitely-drop-dead-gorgeous-Busy Phillips, is also supposed to be ugly or at least dowdy - it’s just downright distracting. Because apparently, the filmmakers believe dyeing blonde hair brunette can transform someone that easily.

Outside of wanting to have its cake and eat it too with the everyone-is-beautiful-but-hey-look-how-funny-it-is-when-ugly-people-think-they’re-hot vibe is that ‘I Feel Pretty’ really struggles to sell its premise. Any film, no matter how strange or implausible it may need to sell you on the basic concept to the point that you are ready to either believe what you’re watching or suspend your disbelief. Not only does ‘I Feel Pretty’ fail to do this, it actually goes out of its way to avoid moments that would help to sell such a far-out premise (for example, when the ‘hot’ Schumer first meets up with her friends post-head injury, they stare in disbelief as she tries to convince them she’s ‘really the same person’). Before we can see how the friends would actually engage with someone who - on the face of it - seems to be having a psychotic break, the film cuts to the next morning.

All of which is a shame because there are some fun and charming moments in ‘I Feel Pretty’. For starters, the central romance between Schumer and fellow comedian Rory Scovel is effortlessly charming, and some of the scenes where Schumer starts to appreciate her newfound self-confidence (including one where she slowly wins over a crowd at a wet t-shirt contest) are quite wonderful.

Unfortunately, the movie around these moments is none of these things, and we’re instead left with a film that’s as cringe-inducing as anything Larry David ever put on screen. Sadly not because it’s funny or truthful,  just because it’s, well, awkward. And kinda painful.

★★

Anotherfilmnerd's earliest cinematic memory was seeing Don Johnson throw up all over a suspect in John Frankenheimer's 'Dead Bang'. Ever since, he's devoted his life to searching out cinema that's weird, wonderful and features vomit in the most unlikely of places.