The movie “I Feel Pretty”: Just Wants You To Be Confident

I Feel Pretty is really not that complicated, aside from all of the elements that complicate it. “People will see it and won’t have a question in their minds about where the heart of the movie is,” said codirector and cowriter Marc Silverstein about the film starring Amy Schumer.

The basic premise is this: A woman named Renee (Amy Schumer) suffers from low self-esteem. One day, caught up in a SoulCycle class, she falls off a bike and hits her head. When she wakes up, she looks in the mirror and sees her body transformed into the one she’s always wanted.

The thing is, it’s all in her head, and we never see what she sees. Renee goes about her life with newfound confidence, hitting on a guy at the dry cleaners (Rory Scovel). And going out for her dream job as a receptionist at a makeup company. She enters a bikini contest and wows her date

Renee advances at work. She starts condescending to her two best friends (Aidy Bryant and Busy Philipps). Because they remind her of her “former” self. Her whole life transforms, for better and worse. All while nothing about her external appearance has actually changed.

The film’s codirectors and cowriters. Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, were initially inspired by high-concept comedies like Big and Tootsie.

As Silverstein recently told BuzzFeed News, they wanted to do a film in that style. “but where there’s no actual change, there’s no switcheroo, it’s literally all just in someone’s mind.”. For them, the premise matched the ultimate goal: “It fits the message of this movie perfectly,” Silverstein said. “It’s learning to believe in yourself even if you have low self-esteem. The battle is with your mind, not with the exterior world.”

But when the first trailer for the film dropped in February, reactions were dubious. Trailer moive leans into Renee’s relationship with her body, including a moment in which a saleswoman in a clothing store tells her. That her size is only available online. In another scene, she asks a woman played by Emily Ratajkowski if she has all the same ribs that Renee has.

Lamenting throughout that women have to deal with the world judging their external appearance. Renee says that she’s “always wondered what it would be like to be undeniably pretty.” Then, through the aforementioned head injury, she suddenly thinks that she is. The trailer culminates with Renee dancing in that bikini contest, finding pride in herself via her delusion.

The trailer’s release prompted accusations that. The film was anti-fat, with claims it was spreading a negative message about the body that Schumer is already in.

“Who is this meant to resonate with?” comedian Sofie Hagen said in a Twitter thread at the time. “Before we can enjoy the premis [sic], surely we have to buy into the fact that she is not pretty. How many of us are bigger than her? Are we supposed to accept that. THIS is ugly when it’s all we’ve been taught that we should aim for?”

She continued, writing: “How about instead of her ‘hitting her head and damaging her brain’ in order. That to become so deluded that she’d think she was ACTUALLY pretty. She read about capitalism and realised that women’s low self-esteem is a patriarchal ploy and that she is worthy of self-love?”

Hagen was not alone in her criticisms. While some responded positively to the message they got from the trailer. Others objected to what they saw as jokes being made at the expense of Schumer’s body. Many also objected to Schumer’s role as the star, given the comedian’s fraught past relationship with public perception of her size.

Soon, the backlash was driving the film’s reputation.

Many on Twitter compared the film to Shallow Hal, a 2001 rom-com in which a superficial man (Jack Black) is hypnotized into seeing people’s inner beauty. Black’s character enters into a relationship with a fat woman while only being able to see her “true inner self,” portrayed as the svelte Gwyneth Paltrow.

“After the trailer, for whatever reason, people made assumptions based on other Hollywood movies that they may have seen, assuming that this would be somehow tone-deaf to certain issues,” Kohn said. Noting that in all the test screenings they did for the film, they’d never encountered anyone “who’s been confused. Who thinks it’s somehow body-shaming or negative.”

Silverstein said that while the backlash has been frustrating for those involved with the movie

It’s not the be-all and end-all of the film’s life. “We didn’t make a movie for a trailer, we didn’t make a movie for people who haven’t seen it,” he said. “You make a movie for people to see, for people to enjoy when they go see that movie. So in that sense, we’ve always been confident in the movie, and knew when people actually saw it that they’d understand.”

There are many aspects of I Feel Pretty that differ from Shallow Hal. But the biggest is that Kohn and Silverstein were adamant that audiences would never see exactly what the “ideal self” that Renee sees in the mirror looks like. They give us some clues — like in a remark Renee makes about resembling one of the Jenner/Kardashians. But the film relies on the audience’s projection of their own beauty ideals and their own insecurities to fuel Renee’s relatability.

INFO:

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, some partial nudity, and language)
Genre: Comedy
Directed By: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Stars: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski
Written By: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
In Theaters: Apr 20, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Jul 17, 2018
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio: STX Entertainment

CRITIC REVIEWS FOR I FEEL PRETTY:

Kevin Maher
An interesting comedy premise, about the superficiality of contemporary metropolitan life, is turned on its head by some shaky plotting and even shakier directorial choices.

Peter Bradshaw
It is more a parable of how celebrities like Schumer, on becoming successful, suddenly get an inkling of how beautiful people have always felt. I Feel Famous would be an alternative title.

Richard Brody
I Feel Pretty is the second movie comedy within the last year in which Schumer’s inventive artistry is misused.

Christopher Orr
This movie, premised on the idea that self-esteem trumps physical beauty, doesn’t even believe in the product it’s selling.

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