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“I Feel Pretty” a step in the right direction

Jeff Boudreaux, Contributor

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Amy Schumer exudes self-confidence in “I Feel Pretty,” a funny, feel-good film that presents itself as a chastisement upon the unfortunate reality of bodily discrimination in everything from employment to dating. It’s a parable of self-mistaken identity, a reversal and reinvention of the involuntary “beauty in the eyes of the beholder” theme propagated in the 2001 Farrelly Brothers film, “Shallow Hal.” It also adds a hefty dose of “Freaky Friday” (choose your edition) thrown in for good measure. Because of that, you’d swear that you’ve seen this before, but what sets this film apart is the charming and downright likable performance by Amy Schumer. If anything, this film proves that her Hollywood status is not a flash in the pan, following up a very adequate performance in last year’s widely-panned “Snatched” with her juiciest role since achieving notoriety in 2015’s breakout hit “Trainwreck.”

Renee Barrett is your average working girl. Well, not actually. While she does have a pretty good job (IT for Lilly LeClaire, a large cosmetics company), she’s tucked away in a depressing near-basement facility, sharing an office with the painfully untalkative Mason (Adrian Martinez). In her spare time, she juggles a betterment class (cycling) and hanging out with her two besties, Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps). The three girls don’t seem to get any traction on their online group dating profile, and Renee is constantly reminding herself of her own shortcomings through conversations with fellow cycle-class member Mallory (Emily Ratajkowski), whose statuesque beauty is overshadowed by her unexpectedly down-to-earth demeanor and body image issues of her own. In a twist of fate, Renee’s high-intensity pedaling results in a bump on the head, hereafter enabling her to see herself as the paragon of beauty. Of course, everyone else (including Vivian and Jane) sees Renee as she has always been, yet with an unmistakably positive outlook.

This opens up a world of opportunity for our heroine, who takes a pay cut to become the receptionist (i.e. the face) of Lilly LeClaire’s 5th Avenue office. Due mainly to her new outlook on life and the tutelage of Lilly (Lauren Hutton) and her daughter, fashion icon Avery (Michelle Williams), Renee goes places she only previously dreamed about. She even finds time for a new and promising relationship with Ethan (Rory Scovel), a regular Joe who is blindsided by her positive, self-acceptance and views her as his own version of the beauty she sees in the mirror. As perfect as these two seem for each other, Renee’s magnetic image is bound to draw in some other fans, namely Avery’s brother, the spoiled, yet strikingly-handsome Grant (Tom Hopper). Will this newfound success draw her away from her real friends, or is this temporal experience destined to teach her valuable lessons about all aspects of her life?

I do believe the premise of “I Feel Pretty” wore a little thin partway through the film’s 1 hour and 50 min. running time. There’s only so many times we can watch Renee be held in awe by her features before the whole idea of viewing yourself in rose-colored glasses begins to fall apart. Still, Schumer digs into this role full throttle and generally gives an inspired and engaging performance. Throughout her films, she’s undoubtedly had the greatest success when paired

opposite a love interest who also happens to be a comedian. We saw it with Bill Hader in the critically-acclaimed “Trainwreck,” and the two made a dynamic pair onscreen. Rory Scovel, while not a household name, becomes the perfect foil and partner for Schumer throughout Renee’s journey from flawed assurance to brimming enlightenment. As good as Schumer was in their scenes together, Scovel held his own in the framing. Which I could only imagine is rather hard to do while the star of the film is delivering some of her sexiest scenes to date.

The most ineffective performance in this film surprisingly belongs to 4-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams. As we didn’t get much of a read on this character in the trailer, I will admit it came as quite the shock when Avery opened her mouth to speak. Just imagine the meek vocal tones of Leslie Mann, but stripped of that actress’s poise, then you would arrive at the mousy, introverted speech of Lily LeClaire’s posterchild. I was unsure of this casting decision initially, and unfortunately this strange and largely unfunny characterization did nothing to quell my doubts. I will give this great actress kudos for trying something new, however the role of Avery LeClaire is undeniably beneath Michelle Williams.

“I Feel Pretty” marks the directorial debut for screenwriting team Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (“He’s Just Not That into You,” “How to Be Single”). I will say that it is certainly a step in the right direction for them to launch this new chapter of their careers with an endearing comedy that people from all walks of life can relate to. Renee’s character arc from an insecure, working girl to a strong, successful female character is the bedrock of inspiration. So what if it’s built on a delusional foundation? The end (and what a great final scene it is) definitely justifies the means.

**1/2 (two-and-a-half out of four stars)

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“I Feel Pretty” a step in the right direction