When I first heard about it, I Feel Pretty was being marketed as some sort of feminist propaganda. I saw it mentioned on Facebook as being a must-see because of how super empowering it would be for all women. Then I saw the trailer and I got really angry. The film that was supposedly meant to provide a message about body positivity was actually just a run of jokes about Amy Schumer being fatter than a model. It really didn’t seem very empowering to me. This anger also made me really interested to see it but I knew I would hate it so much that I didn’t want to see it at the cinema. That would be giving it too much credit. But, inevitably, my fascination got the better of me so I finally watched it. Preparing for the worst.
I Feel Pretty sees Amy Schumer play Renee Bennett, a young woman with massive body image issues. She works in the dingy website office of a large and glamorous cosmetics company. Yet she dreams of being able to work with the beautiful people at Head Office. Unfortunately, Renee isn’t the type of person who gets to work at Head Office. She is the kind of woman who gets ignored by bar tenders, gets turned down for online dating, and makes babies cry with her face. She loves makeup but lacks that quality to ever get it right. So, when a position of receptionist comes up, Renee sees her dreams but is held back by her position of outsider.
Until she has an accident at the gym, hits her head, and wakes up believing she is a completely different person. When Renee now looks in the mirror she sees herself as being one of the people she has admired from the outside for so long. With her new-found confidence she is able to approach strange men in the street, apply for her dream job, and participate in bikini competitions. Obviously, her new attitude comes with a negative side effect as she starts to become a different person and begins to alienate herself from her old friends. Can Renee figure out that she is still the same person she has always been before it’s too late?
Now, I don’t dislike the basic message that I Feel Pretty was trying to get across. The idea the way other people see you is dependent on your own sense of self-worth is a fabulous thing to be preaching in this day and age. I love the idea that it is trying to teach people that a woman who is not normally considered beautiful by society is, in fact, only as beautiful as she feels. But, I just don’t agree with the way it does it. For one thing this film hinges on the idea that Amy Schumer is in any way unattractive. It plays up on her size and appearance in really unconvincing ways. Schumer is an undeniably good-looking woman and, in realistic terms, not fat. Yet, the very conceit of this film hinges on the notion that she is horribly overweight. In order to achieve this, she is stuck in unflattering clothing and placed next to supermodels for the entire film.
The film, whilst trying to send its positive message, also inevitably suggests that Renee’s new-found sense of confidence is a bit ridiculous. There is still that idea that, looking like she does, she should not be doing the things she does. For a film hoping to breakdown social beliefs about what is beautiful, it doesn’t half bang on about the kind of things unattractive people shouldn’t be doing. Like the bikini competition. This is supposed to be an inspiring moment and, though Renee does make a huge impact on the crowd, the scene never escapes the feeling that someone of Renee’s size shouldn’t be near a bikini let alone in one. Without meaning to this film reinforces all of the bullshit it claims to hate.
Something only highlighted by the fact that, after she is hit on the head, Renee sees herself as a different person. She doesn’t wake up and suddenly have the confidence to see that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. No, she sees someone completely different. Someone so different that she keeps reintroducing herself to friends. So different that she thinks her boyfriend won’t recognise her. I think the message of self-belief would have been so much stronger had Renee looked in the mirror after her injury and realising that she was an attractive young woman as she was.
But other people may, and indeed have, seen it differently to that. So, you may argue that my hatred of this film is based entirely on how I chose to interpret that. But you’d be wrong. Because, despite all of the valid reasons I’ve just listed, there is an even greater reason to hate this film: it’s simply not funny. This film has no idea how its trying to play its central narrative and flits between Big parody and a film that takes itself seriously. It’s got a really weird tone and a huge lack of jokes. Schumer, channeling her inner Melissa McCarthy, is game for any physical comedy but, apparently, was okay with the lack of witty one-liners or hilarious jokes.
I Feel Pretty could be seen as being offensive for so many reasons but the main one is that its just so boring. There is nothing exciting or interesting going on. The narrative is so full of script-writing clichés that it’s sad. There is the inescapable feeling that we’re in some weird feminist fairy tale so it’s overly sentimental and schmaltzy. And the jokes just aren’t clever or funny. It’s just an uninspiring mess that plays up to society’s idea of body image and then, to cover itself, tacks on a ridiculous positive message at the end. It’s something that feels so empty and meaningless. There is no real heart to the ideals its selling and there is nothing about this film that really pushes its theme. It’s half-hearted and dull. I hated it more than I expected to… and I really expected to hate it.