It’s supposed to convey a relevant message about self-esteem and body image, celebrating the inner beauty of women of all sizes.
Yet despite that worthwhile sentiment, when you dig beneath the surface of the gimmicky female-empowerment comedy I Feel Pretty, the screenplay needs a makeover.
It stars Amy Schumer as Renee, who’s insecure about her physical imperfections, especially because she works a tech job for an upscale cosmetics firm in a remote basement office instead of her dream gig at corporate headquarters.
An accident at SoulCycle leaves Renee with a concussion, which leads to fantasies that she’s somehow transformed — think a variation on Tom Hanks in Big — into a glamorous and beautiful woman. Of course, nobody around her sees any change in her looks.
However, her confidence suddenly skyrockets, which somehow charms both the company president (Michelle Williams) who happens to be launching a new affordable product line, and a regular guy (Rory Scovel) she meets in a coffee shop.
The film, which marks the directorial debut for the screenwriting tandem of Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (Never Been Kissed), is a vehicle for Schumer first and foremost, and it hints at her strengths for sardonic self-deprecation.
The subject matter seems an ideal fit, too, having touched extensively on plus-sized figures in her stand-up routines and television sketches. Yet Schumer (Trainwreck) is at her best when given more leeway for edgy envelope-pushing. After all, she can be a role model and still project some sass.
In this film, the lessons become watered-down and heavy-handed because of a consistent lack of subtlety and surprise. Although there are some scattered big laughs, too many of the gags are labored or crude or both — such as an extended sequence in which Renee impulsively enters a sports-bar bikini contest — and the narrative detours into her romantic travails are more annoying than endearing.
It’s nice to see a shrewdly cast Lauren Hutton return to the big screen as the cosmetic firm’s matriarch and namesake, although she’s not given much to do.
So will I Feel Pretty be able to impart its self-confident wisdom to the masses, during a time when body shaming, superficiality, and appearance obsession seem to be more prominent than ever? Unfortunately, it’s not likely, especially when it comes to passing judgment on a film that never seems confident about its concept.