‘I Feel Pretty’ butts heads with its timely themes


Andy Moser

I bet you thought that hitting your head and having your hair sucked into a stationary bike didn’t have its benefits. Okay, you probably still want to avoid this particular circumstance (if that means steering clear of the gym, so be it), but in I Feel Pretty, this unique form of pain and embarrassment yields a positive transformation for Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer), a woman struggling with insecurities about her appearance.

This bump on the noggin reshapes Renee’s mind, seemingly by magic. She then sees herself as meeting the female beauty standard rather than falling below it. Newly confident and fearless, Renee goes on to land a job at a snooty makeup company, elevating her social status. The goal here, of course, is to promote the idea that confidence stems from how we choose to view ourselves despite the cultural standards we are pushed to conform to. It’s a wonderful idea to promote, but a few things get in the way of I Feel Pretty’s delivery of that message.

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For one, the film establishes this “other-ism” that never fully gets resolved. Renee expresses skepticism of a stereotypically beautiful girl at the gym who tries to divulge her own self-esteem issues. The scene is too brief to provide Renee any newfound understanding or empathy for others. This glossed-over moment is simply a half-assed attempt at making the point that insecurity spares no one which is why confidence is for everyone. Michelle Williams’ character, a cosmetics expert named Avery LeClaire, on the other hand, is actually shown to have insecurities, as well. Though her character is a welcome surprise, she doesn’t effectively challenge any of Renee’s misconceptions about conventional beauty.

STX Films.

It also doesn’t help that Renee isn’t relatively far off from the typical female beauty standard to begin with. There are going to be people much further from the standard who dismiss Schumer’s character, likely expressing the same skepticism toward her as she does toward the girl from the gym. In a way, the movie practically is Schumer’s character—trying to provide an antidote to insecurity without realizing it’s making a determination as to who is allowed to feel that insecurity. In this way, it flirts dangerously with selective empowerment while trying to achieve it for everyone.

To top things off, Renee’s vibrant confidence is sadly played for laughs most of the time. The comedy and the message work against each other, backfiring on writers/directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (Valentine’s Day, The Vow).

I Feel Pretty truly means well, and it provides some uplifting moments on its uneven pathway to empowerment. It’ll garner some laughs, maybe a cheer or two, and I don’t doubt that it’ll convince a few people out there to start loving themselves a little more. However, the delivery of its central theme is too flawed for it to be the movie it so earnestly wants to be.

Sails: 2.5/5