Body swap is a real beauty

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - INSIDER -

Some — rather vo­cal — so­cial me­dia trolls con­sider Amy Schumer’s muf­fin top to be of­fen­sive. Mem­bers of the fat ac­cep­tance move­ment, on the other hand, ar­gue that she is way too “nor­mal” to au­then­ti­cally em­body their strug­gle.

But if there’s one thing al­most ev­ery­one can agree upon it’s that the 36-year-old ac­tor’s BMI is con­sid­er­ably higher than that of most of her Hol­ly­wood coun­ter­parts.

Un­like her break­through com­edy Train­wreck, which fo­cused on the cen­tral char­ac­ter’s trans­gres­sive be­hav­iour, I Feel Pretty ex­ag­ger­ates Schumer’s phys­i­cal “or­di­nar­i­ness”.

Writ­ten and di­rected by Abby Kohn and Mark Sil­ver­stein (He’s Just Not That Into You, How To Be Sin­gle), it tells the story of an av­er­age work­ing girl (think Brid­get Jones with­out the self­dep­re­cat­ing per­sonal in­sights).

Re­nee Ben­nett (Schumer) works in the “satel­lite” of­fice of a New York beauty em­pire; it’s a win­dow­less back­room where she and her so­cially awk­ward col­league (Adrian Mar­tinez) take care of on­line busi­ness (the sub­text here is that this back-end team doesn’t fit the “beau­ti­ful peo­ple” im­age back at HQ).

Fed on a steady diet of In­sta­gram and women’s fash­ion mag­a­zines, Re­nee dreams of be­ing thin, toned, and head-turn­ingly beau­ti­ful.

Hav­ing mus­tered the courage to at­tend a fash­ion­able spin class, a freak ac­ci­dent knocks her un­con­scious.

Com­ing to, Re­nee be­lieves she has some­how mirac­u­lously trans­formed into a su­per­model.

This al­tered self-im­age changes her re­la­tion­ship with the world. She walks taller. Dresses bet­ter. En­gages with peo­ple more con­fi­dently.

What’s great about the premise is that none of the other char­ac­ters changes their be­hav­iour one iota.

There’s a fine line here be­tween laugh­ing with and laugh­ing at — and Schumer treads it in six-inch stilet­tos.

Re­nee’s un­shake­able self­be­lief pays div­i­dends, both in terms of the com­edy and her char­ac­ter arc.

She takes a pay cut to se­cure her dream job as a re­cep­tion­ist at HQ, where she now feels she be­longs. The in­ter­ac­tions be­tween Re­nee, who is so painfully ea­ger to please, and the icy en­tourage that sur­rounds Michelle Wil­liams’ beauty heiress, which in­cludes Naomi Camp­bell, are price­less.

The film’s sec­ond-fun­ni­est se­quence oc­curs in a seedy bar where Re­nee de­cides to show off her new, hot body in a beauty con­test.

There won’t be a woman in the au­di­ence who doesn’t ap­pre­ci­ate the way the char­ac­ter “owns” the mo­ment. (Even the film­mak­ers’ mis­guided de­ci­sion to go for some cheap laughs with a cou­ple of clumsy rear-end twerk shots can’t spoil it.)

And I Feel Pretty’s ro­man­tic sub­plot — in­volv­ing the sweet but hes­i­tant Ethan (Rory Scovel) — feels sur­pris­ingly nat­u­ral.

The film is less suc­cess­ful when it falls back on well-worn nar­ra­tive con­ven­tions — Re­nee’s fi­nal mo­ti­va­tional speech, for ex­am­ple, is both over fa­mil­iar and un­nec­es­sary (the dance scene has al­ready ad­dressed the same themes, in a much more elo­quent fash­ion).

I Feel Pretty has its fair share of bad hair mo­ments. But Schumer’s messy, in­se­cure, self-doubt­ing char­ac­ter is so gen­uinely re­lat­able it is re­mark­ably easy to over­look the film’s short­com­ings.

An un­for­tu­nate fall has sur­pris­ing con­se­quences for Re­nee’s (Amy Schumer) body im­age.

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