In this day and age when we are constantly bombarded with images of what beauty looks like, it can be difficult to see ourselves in the same light. This is the message that I Feel Pretty, written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, grapples with. But as Amy Schumer tumbled off of her Soul Cycle bike time and time again, this film fell short of my expectations.
Renee, played by Amy Schumer, has one wish: she wants to be beautiful. She works in the basement for a high-end beauty brand run by Avery LeClair (Michelle Williams) and longs to work as the receptionist at the main Fifth Avenue location, where she would be seen by the faces she has always admired. However, she does not think that she is beautiful enough to work in the brand’s main office, where more commercially beautiful women strut around. Renee makes a wish to be pretty and goes to Soul Cycle, where she falls off of her bike and hits her head. She emerges as a new version of herself, and she is finally able to go about her life with confidence, although there are a few complications along the way.
While I Feel Pretty has an important message to send, it's not enjoyable to watch the same jokes play out repeatedly. The film takes its time depicting all of the ways Renee uses her newfound confidence to get ahead in life, and it gets old. She orders drinks for her friends, gets a guy’s phone number, enters a bikini contest, and she is oblivious to the blatantly insulting things people say to her as they expect her to act according to her appearance. I wanted to love this movie, but it felt like I was watching moments from the trailer for more than half of the film. In the second half, some twists and turns involving her friends and love life came about, but they felt contrived and unresolved. There are funny moments along the way, but none of them are memorable. The constant reiterations of the things Renee does just because she thinks she is beautiful felt like getting hit with the same message for almost two hours until it inevitably had to end.
Many people have expressed disappointment about the inherent idea that Amy Schumer’s character is not pretty to begin with, making the content of the film problematic. The end message of I Feel Pretty comes off as empowering, but there are issues along the way that come about as a result of the ways in which characters are developed. As more characters are thrown in, I Feel Pretty tries to make a statement about the insecurities that a variety of people encounter at times. While these attempts are made, the scope of this message still feels incredibly narrow.
Emily Ratajkowski’s character is more representative of what a perfect body should look like according to popular culture, and even she has problems with self-esteem in the film. Michelle Williams plays a character who runs a brand and can’t seem to get anything right as she fails to believe in herself. Even though there is a noble ambition in the creation of I Feel Pretty, it sets up narrow expectations about who the ordinary characters are, versus the successful women who are unexpectedly insecure.
If you are bored and feel like going to the movies, I Feel Pretty will probably not be the worst film you’ve ever seen. I do think that it accomplished the goal of making us think about what it would be like to live life without imposing limits on ourselves. However, if this film were ten minutes long, the message would also come across.