Anyone who has ever seen the infamous Amy Schumer TV special in which she devotes an entire episode to a clever 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957) pastiche, will be only too familiar with just how brilliant she can be. Self-deprecating, subversive and uncompromisingly honest, Schumer made a name for herself by pointing out the superficial nature of those who find her undeserving of her current star-status due to what they regard as an “average look”. However, despite sold-out shows around the world and a hugely popular television series, the comedienne has thus far struggled to replicate that same critical success on the big screen, which if one is completely honest isn’t all entirely her fault, especially when one considers the subpar material she has had to work with this far.
In I Feel Pretty, her third outing as a bona fide comedy actress, Schumer stars as Renee Bennett, an insecure young woman who wakes up from a brutal fall believing that she is the most beautiful woman in the universe. Empowered by her new-found confidence, Renee finds the courage to finally apply for her dream job at a high-end make-up label. Hilarity ensues when her carefree and refreshing personality results on her being cajoled by her new boss (played brilliantly by Michelle Williams in a rare comedic role) to help sell a new make-up line aimed at the average woman.
The rest, you’ve guessed it, centres around our Renee finding out that inner beauty is far more valuable than anything else in the world, and up to a point this kind of works. However, where one might find a fight to pick with directors and co-writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, is in their inability to get to the essence of Schumer’s own comedic worth, choosing instead to rely on cheap gags and slapstick instead of trusting their lead actress to bring her own brand of wit and likability to the proceedings.
Staring alongside Schumer and Williams are Rory Scovel as Renee’s nerdy but hugely likeable love interest, as well as Busy Philipps and Saturday Night Live regular Aidy Bryant as our heroine’s two best friends. Add to the mix the handsomely rugged Tom Hopper in a role which doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose other than being the obvious eye candy, and you’ll have a more than capable cast, who in the end are sadly let down by a predictable script and a few gags which don’t quite fit within the storyline.
On the whole, and as well-intentioned as it is, I feel Pretty simply fails to deliver on what seemed like such a promising set up. Ignoring all the obvious problematic issues regarding body image, the film sadly doesn’t quite grasp the essence of modern womanhood in the way one would have hoped it would, and ultimately falls at the first hurdle by failing to grip you from the get go. Having said all that, Schumer is still able to deliver some killer one-liners in the way only she can, and for that alone, she should be commended for embracing her character with both arms, even she doesn’t always managed to hit the right note.