I Feel Pretty

When the trailer for this movie came out several months ago, it hit a wall of backlash. This was NOT the moment for a movie with any kind of body-shaming. It appeared to be about a woman (Amy Schumer) who suffers a head injury and then wakes up believing herself to be beautiful. And since Schumer is already a conventionally pretty person, critics felt this merited a culture-wide eye roll. And while they’re not wrong, they don’t quite have the premise of the movie down pat.

What really happens: yes, there is a head injury that leads to Renee’s believing herself to be beautiful. But nobody is pretending that she wasn’t perfectly fine before – only that she suffered from low self-esteem and didn’t realize this herself. Which is a common enough thing.

So while the backlash may have been inspired by misconceptions, it’s not entirely wrong. Renee gains esteem not by empowerment but by delusion. She gets a new job MV5BNzE2NDUxMzctOWYwNC00MTkxLThkODctOGQwMTI4MzRjM2M3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_(at a fashion magazine, working for squeaky-voiced Michelle Williams) and a new boyfriend (the perpetually bearded Rory Scovel) and attributes her newfound success to her newfound beauty. And her actions start to reflect those beliefs: she shames her friends (Busy Philipps, Aidy Bryant) for not emphasizing attractiveness and is less than faithful to her ‘nice’ boyfriend when she gets attention from a ‘hot’ guy. So is this purely a positive message? No it is not. But there’s a good intention somewhere in there about how anyone, no matter how they look (*cough*Emily Ratajkowski*cough*), can suffer from low self-esteem. And it’s confidence, not looks, that actually attract good things your way.

Written and directed in a joint effort by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, I can’t help but feel weird about the mixed messages on screen. Like, obviously we’re not supposed to judge a woman’s worth by her looks, and yet we’re encouraged to laugh at Schumer’s “bikini body” as she writhes around on stage. It’s played for laughs. But it’s also pretty powerful commentary if you consider how much that scene makes you uncomfortable. Because societally, we somehow don’t believe that someone who looks anything short of perfection should have body confidence. We shame women for not covering up their flaws. We don’t think that someone who looks like Schumer, who, let’s remember, IS actually living up to conventional beauty standards, even belongs in a beauty pageant or a bikini contest because that’s for one kind of very, very limited beauty that is all but unattainable.

Messaging aside, is this a fun movie to watch? I’d say yes, but it’s inconsistent. I had two REALLY big laughs that I’m ashamed to even admit to, because one was just a computer noise that struck me as totally tragic and genius. But if the message lacks conviction, so do the jokes. In North America, we’ll forgive almost anything if it’s funny enough. I Feel Pretty is not. Sure it doesn’t tell us that looking 19 and weighing less than 120 is the be all and end all, it just tells us that if you’re confident despite those things, it’s funny as hell. Being a woman is tough enough as it is. I just don’t have the 19 year old abs to laugh at this stuff anymore.

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32 thoughts on “I Feel Pretty

  1. Kariyanine

    Great review. I like Schumer but felt the trailer was awful and the backlash didn’t do it any favors. This makes it seem a little better than what I was expecting and maybe I’ll Redbox it in a couple months because I’ll literally watch nearly anything. Still not sure my wife will enjoy it though.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I think the backlash was misleading but it’s hard to really fault it when the movie still wasn’t all that great, message wise. Not as funny as Trainwreck either – but Schumer didn’t write this one.

      Liked by 2 people

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  2. Lara/Trace

    Oh God. I wrote a poem called Beauty in Pounds about this very thing. I don’t think we will ever get this right in North American since the programming begins with very young kids and never ends. I still have issues. It’s NUTS!

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  3. Liz A.

    I’m glad to hear the movie isn’t as bad as what the backlash made it out to be. It sounds like there’s a positive message buried in there somewhere. And in 2012 I might have been OK with that. Not today. And Amy Schumer… I hate her. I hate her for no good reason. I tried. I sat through Trainwreck trying. Nope. She’s on my permanent no-go list.

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  4. Birgit

    You wrote a great review because you convey what i thought this movie is and it’s a shame that when people are “beautiful” they can only be shallow. On the other hand, yes Amy is pretty but she does not have that made up convention of what is beautiful. Today, they are beautiful if they are 98lbs of Anorexic but 50lbs of that are their tits and ass. If a person is actually the right weight the industry calls them fat but obese women, who state they are fine, are called curvy. I hate that! They are obese and are not curvy..Marilyn Monroe was curvey, I think Kate Winslett is curvy but boy did they slam her down when she was hitting the carpets back in 1997. I think I will wait til this movie is on tv:)

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    1. Jay Post author

      Well I think fat\obese are pejoratives and judgmental words that lead to a lot of hurt feelings. I think we need to let communities and groups of people tell us how they want to be identified – let’s use their words to show that not only do we accept all kinds of people, we want them to feel welcome and included. Words have so much power, I just don’t think there’s reason to use words that inflict pain.

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  5. Invisibly Me

    The computer noise comment has made me curious..! I almost want to watch it just to know how that made you laugh so much. This is one I’ll probably rent/stream when it’s available but not something I’d pay cinema ticket prices for. x

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    1. Jay Post author

      The group of girls are on a dating site and they’ve had absolutely no interest. They keep refreshing the page to see if anyone’s responded, and no one ever does. And you know how your computer may beep to tell you you have a new message? Well their computer made a very sad\negative beep to really hit home the fact that there were NO messages. And of course there’s no such beep in the world, so it just struck me as funny that the computer thinks they’re pathetic and has to reinforce that fact with an extra noise.

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  6. Manja Mexi Movie

    I’ll never forget my only visit to the USA. It was Los Angeles for two weeks and San Francisco for three days. I was in my thirties, it was December, and I thought surely one day I would live there. People could be separated into those who had ever been outside of the US and those who hadn’t. The latter were impressed with me. I think I was the first don’t-give-a-fuck woman they had met. But I didn’t mind the people. I think the ocean won. And the fact that I came over when the atmosphere was causing pretty clouds and sunsets. The drive between the two cities was all that I dreamed about. I live in Tuscany now which is closer but similar. Also, I want my time spent at the Universal Studios back.

    How does all this connect to this movie which I haven’t seen? Barely. πŸ˜€

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    1. Jay Post author

      I mean, it doesn’t compare at all in terms of crassness. Shallow Hal was BAD bad, bad for 2001, bad for 1901 bad. This one just kind of misses the mark. I think it probably didn’t even mean to make bodies the punch line but then couldn’t help itself.

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    2. Jay Post author

      I think Trainwreck is her best one. She’s not for everyone, so that’s a good litmus test – if you don’t like that, really don’t bother with the rest!

      Liked by 2 people

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    1. Jay Post author

      She’s not everyone’s cuppa, but she’s hardly disgusting!
      That’s a pretty harsh word for someone you merely dislike when you give the likes of Woody Allen the benefit of the doubt.

      Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves why we use such provocative language against a woman who pushes the boundaries of comedy, but pull back for a man who is accused of committing a heinous crime against a child.

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. reocochran

    I laughed my butt off at “Trainwreck,” Jay. LeBron and Bill Hader were great, so different than their usual roles. πŸ˜€
    I also actually enjoyed the kidnapped movie, “Snatched,” with Goldie Hawn. When Amy Schumer starts to help the natives, she made me feel her inner kindness in this role. They truly seemed like mother and daughter. I went with my youngest daughter who actually told me she had been prepared to Not like Snatched but Did! 😊 πŸ’•

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  8. peggyatthemovies

    While I see your points..I really enjoyed it..and for me it sent a huge message that the average woman can be happy with herself. She spoke for me and that was what matters. Those Schumer-shamers out there like the guy above who call her ‘disgusting’ all because they can’t handle a woman who looks average…being strong and feeling good about herself. I didn’t cringe or see the bikini scene as cringeworthy..I saw it ‘why the fuck can’t anyone do that’ we shouldn’t ashamed of ourselves for not being skinny minnies..I’m 5’10 and wear a size 10/12 and I’m fine with it.. But I wish my 14 year old self who wore a size 6 and still felt shitty could have seen this movie then.

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  9. calensariel

    Just got home from seeing this. It wasn’t as comical as I thought it would be. In some ways her delusions was sort of sad. But I had to ask myself should it be? Did it make me uncomfortable? Yeah, but that’s because I really identified with her feelings. It was hard to get past the same old message, but I thought what was buried underneath about self-esteem was worth setting through the movie for.

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  10. Brittani

    The quick backlash to this kind of reminded me of Karen Gillan’s outfit in Jumanji when we got the first look. Everyone criticized it and then we come to realize that it’s a running joke in the movie.

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  11. Lloyd Marken

    I really do think everybody is beautiful to somebody if they’re beautiful on the inside. We’ve all got our own standards and preferences for ourselves and people we’re attracted to so it makes sense to me how the Amy Schumer character sees herself. I do think we’re bombarded with images that are idealised needlessly but also think the majority responds to certain things as a collective. In that sense the idea of classic beauty might be someone like Emily R or Michelle Williams and someone like Amy Schumer is a little more attainable despite the fact that she has a good figure and a nice face. Again these are just ideas we have of ourselves or others so I don’t think others will think the same thing. What did I take away from the film, pretty much what you did. Everybody has their hang up but if you believe in yourself people will gravitate towards you. That’s a nice message but I personally found the film predictable and boring mostly. I knew she would get this new confidence, become a jerk, have a come down, learn to believe in herself in a big public finale that redeems everything. As a result there were times I resented the script and I resented the character. I wanted to hang out with her friends a lot more. But Karen…Karen loved it. I turned to her afterwards “Is that what it’s like when you watch an action movie with me that is really average?”. Frustrating though because I loved TrainWreck.

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