'I Feel Pretty' is still pretty problematic

Amy Schumer feels pretty in I Feel Pretty.
Amy Schumer feels pretty in I Feel Pretty. Courtesy photo

I Feel Pretty

Rated PG-13
Run-time: 110 minutes

When the trailer for the Amy Schumer-driven body image satire I Feel Pretty debuted online, the internet was furious. The film looked like a gender-bent version of Shallow Hal with internalized misogyny in contrast to old-fashioned male chauvinism. Luckily, I Feel Pretty is not nearly as offensive as the trailer would make the film out to be, but it's still a problematic clusterfuck that has absolutely no concept of how the real world works.

Amy Schumer stars as a woman named Renee who has been gaslighted to the point that she believes she's too unattractive and uninteresting to ever be successful. Playing a self-loathing woman living in a world where everyone appears to be smarter, faster, thinner, and prettier allows for audiences to immediately identify with the character, because I've yet to meet a woman in my life who wasn't also painfully insecure and feeling destroyed by society's unrealistic standards of beauty.

However, all of this changes when Renee hits her head at a SoulCycle class (because of course it had to be fucking SoulCycle) and suddenly perceives herself as the most gorgeous woman in the world. Nothing physically about Renee has changed, but this newfound confidence has offered her a new lease on life and a new perspective of the world around her.

I can already hear the undeserving "Yaaaas Queeeeen!" chants from here.

I Feel Pretty isn't unique in its Big/13 Going on 30/Freaky Friday/17 Again-style body-swap storytelling, which is disappointing considering the script comes from Never Been Kissed's Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein. I commend the duo for creating a film that focuses more on self love than on changing to appease the world around you, but I Feel Pretty still misses the mark on what could have and should have been an incredibly influential film.

Once Renee begins living with her Beyoncé-esque attitude, everyone around her seems to be perplexed by her actions. How can she be so confident with that figure? Given that Schumer is not the bridge-troll she once believed herself to be, the reactions of everyone around her are laughably unbelievable. With the revolutionary start of the body positivity movement and the popular #EffYourBeautyStandards mantra adopted by many plus-size women, it's not a surprise that Renee's friends and coworkers can't possibly understand why she's suddenly sowing her wild oats and feeling herself. These people also live in a world that constantly tells them they'll never be good enough, so there's a lot of projection of their own insecurities in their confusion over why someone deemed "lesser than" is acting like they're anything but. The projection, however, feels inauthentic and fails to build up the "love thyself" message.

The moral I Feel Pretty is desperately trying to deliver doesn't even make it out the door. Is it important to preach confidence to women living in a society that tells them to hate themselves? Yes. Is it empowering to see a woman owning her appearance? Yes. Is self love and confidence the key to happiness and success? Hell fucking no.

Telling women that "all you need is confidence" is just as unrealistic as telling children "when you grow up, you can do anything." The only reason Renee feels so confident is because she's convinced she's the hottest babe on the planet. Her confidence is achieved because she's still feeding into the cycle of "look a certain way and you'll finally be happy." It doesn't matter that she still looks the same way she did before her brain injury, she believes she's a knockout and lives in that truth.

I Feel Pretty also never addresses the privileges already afforded to Schumer for being only slightly less conventionally attractive than the standard. Had this movie starred a larger actress like Melissa McCarthy or an actress of color like Tiffany Haddish, Renee's experiences in the work environment would be a hell of a lot more difficult whether she was confident or not.

Renee's life does seem to turn around once she comes out of her shell and starts living her life to the fullest, but they're all opportunities of circumstance. The beauty company she works for has realized they have to start marketing to "normal people," and therefore promotes Renee to a position. This isn't some great achievement earned, this is a token filler that she happened to fit.

Michelle Williams plays Schumer's boss Avery LeClaire in what is arguably the best comedic performance of her career. She steals every scene she's in, largely due to the fact that she's the only comedic presence that isn't hashing out the same "LOL Y U SO CONFIDENT, CHUBBY LADY?" joke that overwhelms the entirety of the film. For die-hard Williams fans, this is a refreshing change of pace for an actress often pigeon-holed as a distraught lover. Renee's romantic interest is played by the completely adorable and endearing Rory Scovel, who delivers a masterful leading-man debut.

I Feel Pretty is a movie I desperately wanted to champion, but I cannot in good faith hail it as the feminist masterpiece it so fiercely tried to present as. Despite what mouth-breathing Redditors have to say about Amy Schumer, she is a revolutionary comedic performer. Unfortunately, I Feel Pretty does her no favors and her talent cannot save her from a jumbled script and repetitive jokes.

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