Body swap is a real beauty
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.