Film Review: ‘I Feel Pretty’ Stretches Amy Schumer

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Ever since bursting on to the scene a few years ago, there’s been a toxic nature to the conversation surrounding Amy Schumer. Fans love her humor, but detractors take it to a personal and sometimes vile level, especially when bringing her looks into it. It’s a shame that this is where we’re at, especially on social media, but that’s 2018 for you. In that sense, a movie like “I Feel Pretty” is perfectly suited for Schumer. A likable comedy that’s also a commentary on the relationship between looks and self-esteem, its timeliness can’t be ignored. Fortunately, the message it’s peddling is a positive one, while even removed from all that, it’s just a funny flick. The film won’t win any awards, but it’s a dependable vehicle for Schumer and an amusing way to spent 100 minutes in a theater.

“I Feel Pretty” makes a strong point about confidence and self-esteem, even if you may not initially realize it. Schumer can’t match the genius of “Trainwreck,” but it’s further proof that she’s a capable comedy actress. Furthermore, we again see that she’s got a wonderful emotional vulnerability to her. This could very well be a stepping stone towards more serious and challenging work. We already know Schumer is a fantastic comedian. Now, it may be time to showcase how strong of an actress she is.

Her whole life, Renee Bennett (Schumer) has lived with insecurity. Lacking confidence and dealing with body insecurity due to the obsession with beauty that she sees around her, Renee leads a sad life. Her friends Jane (Busy Philipps) and Vivian (Aidy Bryant) see her for who she is, but no one else does. Trapped in a basement with one co-worker in the odd Mason (Adrian Martinez), she works for a beauty company but is hidden from sight. When the need arises for Renee to show up at headquarters, she not only sees her seemingly perfect company head Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams), she also sees an opening for a secretary position. She’d love the job but lacks the confidence to apply. All she wants is to be beautiful and bubbly. She even takes inspiration from “Big” and makes a wish. Then, while at SoulCycle, she hits her head. When she comes to, Renee sees herself in a whole new way. To her, she’s now a supermodel, with all of the self-esteem that comes with that.

Now chock full of confidence, Renee quickly starts seeing the world a lot differently. She asks out a guy (Rory Scovel), something she’d never do in the past. Her newfound spark also catches the eye of Avery, who begins using her for guidance and inspiration. Of course, this doesn’t come without a price. Renee may now feel beautiful and fearless, but she’s begun treating her friends poorly, and frankly, becoming a self-centered jerk. No points for guessing where this is all going, but it’s a good amount of fun watching it all unfold.

Amy Schumer shows some nice range in “I Feel Pretty.” making this more than just a comedic performance. Toned down to a PG-13, Schumer trades in some raunch for a different sort of humor that still fits her well. Moreover, her more serious beats work best. She can break your heart with some of her faces. Hopefully soon someone gives her a dramatic leading role. She has the potential to ace it. Michelle Williams, on the other hand, is doing something unique and utterly amusing here. Unlike anything she’s ever attempted before, it’s hard not to think of Tilda Swinton in “Trainwreck” when watching Williams. With a silly voice and exaggerated mannerisms, it’s clear she’s enjoying herself. It’s a lark, but one that will make you consistently giggle.

Williams is the supporting turn of note, but hardly the only one in the picture. Aidy Bryant and Busy Phillips are solid as the friends who know the real Renee. Then, there’s Rory Scovel, who is an amusingly low key love interest. The charm of his character is as much in writing as the performance, but he does the trick. Also on hand are Tom Hopper, Lauren Hutton, the aforementioned Adrian Martinez, and Emily Ratajkowski, to name a few. They can’t hold Williams’ water, unsurprisingly, but they make for an effective core supporting group overall.

Filmmakers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein have long been comedy/romantic comedy/romance screenwriters. Here they graduate to directing too with what’s one of their most effective works yet. Kohn and Silverstein seem to have crafted this one for Schumer, but it still retains universal qualities as well. There’s not a whole lot of style to their direction, but that could come with time. They effectively move their story forward, though there’s a hump as the third act begins. You get the sense that the desire to make this a crowd pleaser dulled some of its edges, but that’s not a huge issue. The choices they made here, more often than not, were the right ones.

When you get down to it, “I Feel Pretty” takes a “Big” type premise and delivers a nice little comedy with a great message. Schumer fans will enjoy it for sure, especially if you’ve been curious to see her stretch her range a bit. We’re not looking at a surefire hit here, but this is the sort of film that will continue to find its fans in the years to come. Don’t wait for it to hit cable though. This movie deserves your time and money now, in theaters.

“I FEEL PRETTY” IS DISTRIBUTED BY STX ENTERTAINMENT AND OPENS IN THEATERS ON APRIL 20.

GRADE: (★★★)