25 Apr 2018

Review - I Feel Pretty

From At The Movies, 7:33 pm on 25 April 2018

The Amy Schumer comedy is hardly a new idea - a blow on the head causing massive personality change - but that doesn't mean it's not groundbreaking, writes Simon Morris.

Going into the new Amy Schumer comedy I Feel Pretty, I got into a conversation with a woman who told me just how refreshing it was to see a lead actress who wasn’t movie-star gorgeous, and not having a problem with it. 

“It’s been so long coming,” she said, and she may be right.

Trainwreck star Amy Schumer is back with a feminist slant on the old Tom Hanks comedy Big

I Feel Pretty is hardly a new idea - a blow on the head causing a massive personality change is one of the old movie staples.

And the “what if?” premise of Tom Hanks’ kid wishing to be big is not only used, but acknowledged, as we see the unhappy Renee with her own guilty wish.

But because the story is so easy to grasp – anyone who’s seen the trailer once can pretty much pick where this entire story is likely to go – I Feel Pretty puts in a little spadework establishing the characters.

Well, the main character.  Renee’s friends and colleagues get pretty short shrift in this movie.

Renee works in a lowly position for a fashion and makeup chain, and her one dream is to be pretty enough to be a receptionist at head office. She regularly goes to the gym to achieve this miracle, which is where she meets Mallory - supermodel Emily Ratajkowski.

No sooner has she discovered that good looks may not solve every problem,  Renee falls and bangs her head.

When she wakes up, she looks in the mirror and discovers the ugly duckling has turned into a gorgeous swan.

The gag is that she hasn’t changed at all, it’s all in her head, and so – the slightly facile script points out - maybe the whole beauty thing is in the eye of the beholder too? 

Yes, thank you, I Feel Pretty, I did get that.

But first Renee has to learn this valuable lesson, by walking a mile or two in the high heels of the super-confident beauty queen.  And to be fair, some of these scenes are funny.

Along the way she meets a nice, equally self-conscious chap called Ethan – TV actor Rory Scovel – who serves the same role as Chris O’Dowd did in the movie Bridesmaids – to humanise a potentially one-note lead character.

I have to confess I kept trying to think where I’d seen this story before.  The answer of course was hundreds of places – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Clueless, any Cinderella story – in fact any story with a makeover in it. There’s even a hint of Dumbo’s magic feather in the final resolution.

But being nothing new doesn’t mean it’s not groundbreaking. Because for once Amy Schumer is normal-looking not “movie star plain”.

In an industry in which Renee Zellweger, Sandra Bullock and – God help us – Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada have played ugly ducklings waiting to be transformed, this is certainly a step up.

Of course, what will really be a step up is when people actually queue up to see movie stars who are there because of their talent not their looks.  Up to you, Joe and Joanne Public.  What do you say?