Amy Schumer has used her Comedy Central sketch series, Inside Amy Schumer, as a sort of therapy tool not only for herself but for the huge following she has cultivated since it began back in 2013. So the idea behind her latest comedy vehicle, I Feel Pretty, makes a lot of sense on paper. It’s only when you start to read between the lines do things look a lot shakier.
Here she plays Renee, an ordinary and slightly insecure woman who wonders what life must be like being as naturally beautiful as someone like her gym buddy Mallory (Emily Ratajkowski). She works in a dead-end IT job in a remote basement for cosmetic company Lily LeClaire, embarrasses herself in the gym and can’t even get babies to smile back at her.
After falling off her exercise bike and bashing her head she is suddenly filled with confidence and convinced she is one of the ‘hot girls’ that seem to get the best out of life. Before you know it she is climbing up the career ladder to become company CEO Avery LeClaire’s (Michelle Williams) right-hand woman and finally lands a boyfriend in the shape of Ethan (Rory Scovel).
This is the basic premise of the film, one which tries to line-up its gags off the back of Renee’s brash, deluded confidence, scraping the bottom of the barrel in its attempts to raise a laugh or two.
The message I Feel Pretty wants to hammer home come the end is about finding comfort in your own skin and having a positive body image. As Renee works for a company driven by image, in an industry that constantly shames women into feeling inadequate about their own appearance, there is some potential to take it down. Except that never happens. Not once. Not even the slightest of digs about the role fashion and cosmetic companies play in demoralising their own customers.
At least Michelle Williams seems to be having fun away from the more serious roles that have established her as one of the best actresses of the moment. Her brainless ideas and chipmunk voice threaten to steal the picture from under Schumer’s nose but she only sporadically appears and fades into the background along with everything else.
What writer/directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein fail to provide is a reason to care whether Renee can ever love herself for who she is or not. The film is bookended with the ‘real’ Renee before and after the accident but such little time is spent getting to know her that her superficiality is mostly all we have to go on – and that certainly isn’t pretty.
At its heart, there is a positive message underpinning I Feel Pretty. The idea of embracing our ordinariness and rejecting society’s pressure to conform is a good one – even if it is delivered from an image-driven Hollywood. But first and foremost the job of a comedy is to make the audience laugh which is exactly what this film fails to do.