I Feel Pretty has an ambitious meta premise. I don’t think it quite figured out how to pull it off, but I like what it’s trying to do.
It’s basically like an ‘80s high concept comedy where the fantastical premise doesn’t actually happen. Big is references in the movie, but it could be Vice Versa, Hunk (remember that one?) or any other wish fulfillment premise, even the ‘90s with Liar Liar.
Renee (Amy Schumer) feels insecure in a world that rewards thin, glamorous women. After a head injury, she believes she has transformed into one of them, only she’s still the same Renee.
Just by acting like someone who believes the world is catering to her, Renee’s confidence actually makes her stand out above models and actress types.
I Feel Pretty essentially does the same plot as a movie where Amy Schumer is transformed into a supermodel, only nothing has actually happened. They just play up the same moments of mistaken identity and friends not knowing what she’s talking about, because she’s literally talking about something that didn’t happen.
So she tries to convince her friends (Busy Phillips and Aidy Bryant) that she’s still Renee, when no one ever questioned it. She calls in sick to work thinking she can’t show up as thin Renee. The film gets the same mileage out of those bits when Renee is simply deluded.
There is a bit of satire in the sense that we accept Renee’s entitled behavior in thin girls. What’s stopping any woman from trying it out? Chances are she’d get her way just because most people would try to avoid a confrontation.
And by all rights, she should get her way. Everyone is entitled to self-confidence until it reaches a point that it harms others. The film shortchanges the section where Renee gets corrupted. That would be more interesting to explore.
They never quite figured out why a sensible woman in 2018 would believe that she experienced a body changing wish from a movie. The script also bends over backwards to avoid having anyone say, “You look the same” but it shares that with many classic comedies that rely on nobody speaking directly.
Like the classic ‘80s and ‘90s fantasy premise comedies, the comedy hangs on a corporate presentation. Renee’s practical makeup knowledge gives her an in with Avery Le Claire (Michelle Williams), a cosmetics mogul trying to introduce a consumer line for Target.
So the film climaxes with the big business presentation, just like Big, just like Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.
It plays with the aspirational fantasy by making Renee happy to be a receptionist. The film points out that most people use the receptionist job to advance their career, so it’s amusing that it’s the ultimate achievement for Renee.
I Feel Pretty wants to be sensitive to the ways the world is unfair to women. Buy these products, follow these videos that don’t actually work in three minutes. Dating sites exacerbate rejection.
The message is right that confidence is more valuable than superficial looks. However, in real life, that confidence has to be sincere. The world is littered with failures who acted confident when they were blatantly masking insecurity.
Renee’s confidence is manufactured, so it’s not really sincere. She may find her sincere confidence by the film’s end, but I hope audiences get that it’s the believing in herself that was appealing, not the suddenly feeling superior because she thought she was thin.
Or maybe it’s just enough that she falls down and shakes her tummy. That could be.
I Feel Pretty opens Friday, April 20. Read our interview with the writer/directors.