I first saw Jillian Bell in 22 Jump Street and immediately became a fan. I kept up with Workaholics and Idiotsitter but have been waiting for her to get her own movie vehicle. Brittany Runs a Marathon is finally the film to showcase all her talents.
Brittany (Bell) sees a doctor to try to scam for Adderall but he warns her she’s overweight and at risk for liver disease. She starts running to try to get healthy, and her new friends from a running group suggest she train to run the New York Marathon.
Bell is endearingly funny as Brittany, chatting with theatergoers as an usher and making her coworkers laugh in what seem like improv riffs. She makes up songs and she had me at her rhyme with Brittany.
Brittany Runs a Marathon also lets her be real and vulnerable. I mean, I knew she could do it but it’s just so great to see a movie utilize her so fully.
Brittany uses humor to protect herself from judgmental people. It’s understandable when your whole life people have seen you as less than, so opening up to genuine friends is scary.
She’s suspicious of her rich neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins) at first, but Catherine brings her to the running group where she meets Seth (Micah Stock), a gay father who’s insecurities about looking manly to his child helps them relate to each other.
Getting healthy let’s Brittany see her roommate Gretchen (Alice Lee)’s true colors. Gretchen is an instagram star who resents losing her funny fat friend even though it’s clearly good for Brittany’s health and self-esteem.
So she’s dismissive of Brittany’s progress. Brittany stops going weeknight drinking when she’s training, and it’s poignant that when you get healthy, sometimes you have to move past your unhealthy enablers.
When Catherine and Seth, or her brother-in-law Dimetrius (Lil Rel Howery) are supportive though, that’s still confusing for Brittany. When you’ve been guarded for so long, why is someone offering to do something for you with nothing to gain?
There’s a moment where Brittany fat shames another couple and it’s heartbreaking, but it’s because Brittany hates herself. That’s the reason why anyone shames someone else, and it’s realistic that Brittany is capable of it too. Brittany, however, has hope for redemption.
She remains endearingly funny throughout all the ups and down. She still messes with the doctor at checkups and makes up songs. Bell gets to be hilarious, and so do Stock, Watkins and Howery.
Getting healthy also includes Brittany taking more responsibility by taking more stable work. At a housesitting job, she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar) who works the night shift.
Bell and Ambudkar have great chemistry as their relationship goes from pushing each other’s buttons to supporting each other but still calling out their B.S.
Director Paul Downs Colaizzo wrote Brittany Runs a Marathon as a love letter to his real friend Brittany. She was pleased
It’s so clear in Colaizzo’s loving framing of Bell that he saw what was special about her from beginning to end. It’s less a makeover movie and more an “I admire what you’re doing” movie.
Giving her such funny lines helps too, and giving Bell the chance to show she can still be the funny character and give her an arc from beginning to end.
Bell has often been the funny supporting character in a comedy movie, and in Brittany Runs a Marathon, the supporting characters get full character arcs too.
Somebody please buy Brittany Runs a Marathon at Sundance for lots of money and release it wide on at least 3000 screens this summer.