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The film follows Schumer’s character, a woman struggling with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, who wakes from a head injury believing she is suddenly the most beautiful and capable woman in the world.
In addition to the Trainwreck star, the film also features Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, Rory Scovel, Saturday Night Live standout Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps, Game of Thrones‘ Tom Hopper, Adrian Martinez and Lauren Hutton.
Screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (He’s Just Not That Into You, How to Be Single) also directed the film, which is their feature directorial debut.
In The Hollywood Reporter‘s review, critic Sheri Linden writes that she felt underwhelmed by the film, which she says “isn’t as gutsy as it wants to be.”
Praising the surprisingly comedic turn of Williams in particular, Linden writes that the “film veers between inspired and strained and finally settles into the realm of self-improvement pop psychology.”
Ultimately, she concludes, “The bracing promise of the setup steadily loses fizz and the overlong feature grows smaller — constricted, deflated — as it travels familiar routes. It regains some buoyancy with a sweet bit of business involving cellphones and a broken date, and in its final moment, with a flash of fury in Schumer’s gaze, it taps into something that can’t be contained by the story’s neat framework.”
The Guardian‘s Benjamin Lee felt similarly, saying in his review that the film “falls flat.” According to Lee, there is a frustrating lack of subtlety, which leaves the film feeling “more like an awkwardly assembled attempt to recall high-concept hits from the ‘80s.” He adds that the flick “can’t quite figure out if it’s a parody of such fare or an earnest examination of the shallow nature of society.”
Lee also finds issue with the concept of the film and what he calls “the vagueness of the magical element of the plot.” He finds himself instead wishing that Schumer, who wrote the very well-received Trainwreck, had written the screenplay here as well. “While there’s clear comic potential in the setup, especially with Schumer’s bravado and willingness to indulge in physical comedy, the film never quite mines the laughter that it should. There’s a spikiness absent from the script, a stultifying lack of killer one-liners,” he says.
In spite of the script, Lee says, “Schumer does still manage to sell a smattering of the comic moments.”
In Michael Phillips’ Chicago Tribune review, he takes it one step further, calling the film “depressing” and “a weirdly scrambled, two-faced sort of empowerment movie.” Finding issue with the film’s strategy, Phillips explains, “Despite plentiful scenes affording Schumer room to show both sides of Renee, the sad sack and the strutter, veteran screenwriters and first-time feature film directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein can’t settle on a tone, or allow Renee to breathe.”
He ultimately concludes that “it’s just not funny or fresh enough, and that has everything to do with the material and how it’s handled visually, and nothing to do with the people on the screen.”
Peter Travers over at Rolling Stone also felt the film was a bit hypocritical. In his review, which ponders if the film is fat-shaming away the comedy, he credits the movie with not “going the way of Shallow Hal” but questions the film’s main point: “Bennett learns that hey, she’s always had that strong woman inside her — so now she can use that power to market cosmetics as a new road to actualization and success? That’s the takeaway? I Feel Pretty uses the same technique to hawk tickets: See this movie and you’ll feel better about yourself. If the people responsible for this comedy aren’t embarrassed by that hypocrisy, they damn well should be.”
Although the idea behind the film is a good one, Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson says, the faults of the movie are tough to ignore. “There’s a potentially funny movie in here somewhere. But it lumbers along, wasting some of its greatest assets and, in the end, overstaying its welcome.”
The performances by the supporting actors, especially Williams, are great, according to Wilkinson, although there’s not enough of those characters in the movie for her liking. And, ultimately, she writes, “There’s rich material and great performers strewn throughout the film that simply don’t get enough room to shine, and the movie suffers as a result. So even though it sometimes feels like the movie is nailing the tortured feeling of obsessing over your body, it just doesn’t have anywhere to go, or any way to develop that premise.”
USA Today‘s Brian Truitt was somewhat more pleased by the film. Although he too feels that it ironically suffers from a lack of confidence in itself, he thinks that, although I Feel Pretty is no Trainwreck, “everything, from narrative momentum to Schumer’s own performance, picks up” after her accident.
He adds: “There’s a definite satisfaction watching supermodel types squirm when they can’t derail Renee’s cheery blind confidence, and her courtship with Ethan is a riot of mixed messages and bikini contests.”
Indiewire‘s David Ehrlich also found more to enjoy about the film, calling it “an open-hearted and occasionally funny story of self-confidence.”
“Not exactly the first movie that’s ever dared to suggest that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, I Feel Pretty at least has the decency to be honest about how far that wisdom can take you,” he writes.
Like Linden and Wilkinson, Ehrlich finds Williams’ performance to be a standout in the film, going so far as to say, “The race for best supporting actress starts here.”
And, although the film has its faults, they’re not too egregious to make the film unenjoyable, according to Ehrlich. “Schumer’s latest comedy could have used a few more polishes — it’s a little flabby toward the backend, even if its star is totally fine just as she is — but it never slackens in its conviction that the world reflects how you feel about yourself, or in how empowering that can be if you come at it from the right angle,” he says.
I Feel Pretty hits theaters Friday.
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