I Feel Pretty isn’t an archetypal Amy Schumer comedy. The legendarily unfiltered comedienne trades in the hard-R shenanigans that have long been her brand for a more heartfelt, understated approach that takes societal norms and expectations to task with as much enthusiasm. But make no mistake, she’ll still find your funny bone and tickle it — or perhaps twist it — with the sometimes uncomfortable truths that lead the sharp edge of comedy in this ultimately big-hearted picture. In a throwback to the strengths of her Comedy Central series, Inside Amy Schumer, Schumer uses her “nontraditional” (for Hollywood) star power to challenge the everyday slings and arrows of modern womanhood.
Renee Bennett (Schumer) feels invisible. She works for the company of her dreams, but in a remote office that might as well be a closet. She has great friends (Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps), but the three of them are striking out on a group dating app. She follows all the trendy fashion and makeup influencers, but can’t quite recreate their looks. She goes to SoulCycle to get inspired, but can’t complete a class without injuring herself. She thinks her life would be so much easier if only she were beautiful. Then one of those SoulCycle mishaps knocks her out and she comes to under the impression she’s been transformed into the most beautiful and competent woman in the world. It’s a powerful illusion for Renee, but we never see what she sees, we see what the world sees, and therein lies the magic of the film.
We’re free to enjoy the situational irony and physical comedy that ensues, but we also see that Renee accomplishes all of her wildest dreams based on a most unlikely placebo. That as the SoulCycle instructor said before all of this started, the miracle was already inside her. It’s a message that flirts with saccharine and rose-colored glasses, but I Feel Pretty manages to own it as a rally cry, not a simple solution. The narrative here isn’t simply, “You’re perfect, don’t change,” it’s more akin to “Change your perspective, give yourself permission to feel joy and find a path to owning all of the things other people already love about you.” I mean, that’s not short and sweet and Instagrammable, but it is the essence of the sense of empowerment that courses under everything else happening here. Yes, the third reel is markedly weaker than what precedes it, but for most of its duration, I Feel Pretty is earnest and worthy of the ambitious spark is seeks to create.
In it’s best moments, I Feel Pretty is realistic when it could more easily be aspirational, it’s honest when idealistic would be more comfortable and it’s unfailingly kind when the more obviously funny path would be cruel. I Feel Pretty has is a small movie with a big heart, an important fact that’s been notably absent from the way it has been (mis)marketed. Give it a try, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a breath of fresh air ahead of a summer of sameness.