Amy Schumer. What the hell happened? Blazing into theaters with TRAINWRECK, a film that gleefully subverted rom-coms with extreme prejudice, she is now flailing through I FEEL PRETTY, her second disaster in a row. That both of them (the other was SNATCHED) were the very genre she set on fire is an irony that, perhaps, will one day be savored. Right now, it just leaves a very bad taste, not just in the mouth, but also in the adjacent olfactory organs. Maybe one of the auditory ones, too. It also made my eyes smart.
Putatively a comedy, it is labored, obvious, and painfully unfunny. Those qualities are bad enough, but combine them with a commercial for not one, but two branded workout routines, a muddled message about its central premise, and the irksome habit on constantly reminding us of the meaning, if any, of what we’ve just seen played out on screen, and you have a contender at next year’s Razzie Awards.
Schumer is Renee, a woman desperately trying to be the type of beauty promoted by the media, and by the cosmetics company. Lily LaClair, for which she works. She’s not in the glitzy corporate offices, no, she’s toiling away in the online division, which consists of herself and one, non-bantering, co-worker (Adrian Martinez) situated in a basement in New York’s Chinatown. Many scenes take place in New York’s Chinatown, perhaps a reflection of the source of much of the film’s funding.
But I digress.
Renee longs for the dream life of the hyper-beautiful, a life of guys hitting on her and glamorous partying. When she hits her head during one of those branded workout routines, she wakes up with a whole new attitude, thanks to the power of suggestion and the delicate nature of the brain when shaken. She suddenly believes that her appearance has changed, and with it, her attitude. She is confident and adorable. The world reacts accordingly, and by that I mean that some, such as Avery (Michelle Williams, who appears to be visiting from another, much funnier flick), the wispy-voiced granddaughter of the company’s founder (Lauren Hutton), look askance, but seen an opportunity to use this ordinary-looking woman as research for the new, more economical line being launched for the huddled masses who don’t shop on 5th Avenue. Others, like Ethan (Rory Scovel), the sweetly befuddled guy in line behind her at the dry cleaners, find her irresistible, but only after looking at her equally askance when she acts like he’s coming on to her.
Renee’s dream of working at corporate comes to pass when xxx hires her to be the receptionist. At a considerable pay cut. There she impresses the heck out of everyone with her kick-ass confidence, the which dissipates like so much morning mist when she meets Grant (Tom Hopper), the founder’s grandson and frequent item in gossip columns around the world. With him, inexplicably, she becomes tongue-tied and awkward. Of course, he’s charmed. Just as charmed as Ethan is.
In short order, Renee has alienated her old friends (Busy Phillips and Aidy Bryant), and worked her way up the corporate ladder, as much for her insight into the proletariat mind, as for her banter about salad dressing (another product placement) with grandma. To her credit, Hutton looks as confused as I was at this interlude).
Schumer, a master of the deadpan dig and sardonic aside, is less endearing as a sad-sack Kewpie Doll. Assuming the persona of all that she has made a career of mocking lacks the edgy irony that would have let us all in on the joke. Then there is the endless exposition. We see a few scenes, and then a character has a dramatic monologue about what we have just seen. This happens several times over the course of the film, and becomes more insulting each time. Talking down to an audience is never a good idea, and multiple offences increase the irritation exponentially. Inserting a scene where the supermodel reveals her lack of self-esteem to a disbelieving Renee, presented to us as though it’s something we have never considered in a world of plastic surgery and bulimia, is, well, even worse.
I FEEL PRETTY is so devoid of an original idea, that ten minutes into it, we are subjected to a photo montage as Renee and her friends pose for the pictures they want to use on something called Grouper. And an hour in, Renee has a conversation with her basement co-worked as he struggles in the bathroom. Don’t ask. It’s a film that celebrates the beauty of being oneself with a tale of a girl making good in the cosmetics industry. There is nothing for it but to shake one’s head, ponder what Schumer was thinking, and then get on with one’s life as best one can.