Written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, I Feel Pretty stars Amy Schumer in a meaningful comedy that tells the story of a young woman who discovers the true definition of beauty, in a world that makes it so hard to find. (FEA 5/5).
Review by FF2 Intern Farah Elattar
“Renee Barrett” (Amy Schumer) is a young woman who works at a high-end cosmetic company called Lily Leclaire. Too afraid to step out of her shell, she settles for a web position that traps her in a in a basement far away from the company’s luxurious midtown headquarters.
Convinced that she is not beautiful, Renee faces trouble in all aspects of her life. Her insecurity hinders her from taking advantages of the opportunities that present themselves to her. Inspired by the Tom Hanks movie Big, she wishes to, for once, exemplify what she envisions as “beautiful,” as embodied by “Mallory” (Emily Ratajowksi) — a woman that possesses the physical perfection that Amy believes she lacks.
Attempting to get closer to her ideal, Renee goes to a gym, and hits her head during a spinning class. She awakens from her fall believing that she is beautiful, when in fact her appearance remains the same. Her newfound feeling of beauty gives her the confidence she needs to pursue everything she was too afraid to take on before (whether that be in her professional, social, or romantic life).
Kohn and Silverstein made the clever choice of writing this film in the form of a comedy, which enables them to deliver a powerful, even revolutionary message in a light, accessible manner. As the popular Latin phrase goes: “castigat ridendo mores.” In other words, laughing corrects morals. Comedy and satire are indeed simple, effective means to illustrate prejudices and biases that exist in society, and therefore give the spectator a chance to pick up on them and correct them.
In the case of I Feel Pretty, the error is our modern-day definition of beauty. In a society that revolves around consumerism, following the latest trends becomes an endless search for an impossible ideal. Renee has internalized the conventional definition of beauty for women, exemplified by the elitist, non-inclusive representation of women in Hollywood. Magazine covers and mainstream films portray women as impossibly skinny and trendy, and promote a certain look that can only be attained by a minority of people (due to the diverse nature of genetics, versus the selectivity of Hollywood). Therefore, women like Renee – who cannot live up to the Hollywood ideal – are constantly disappointed in themselves. This is brilliantly conveyed by shots of Renee looking discouraged whenever she sees her reflection.
When she wakes up from her fall, Renee does in fact look exactly the same, but her attitude changes. Thinking that she is beautiful, she gains confidence in herself, gets a job at the home office of Lily Leclaire, and even impresses her boss so much that she earns a promotion. In reality, her looks are the same, but Renee gains a strong charisma when she loses her insecurity — the only thing that kept her from doing what she wanted.
Thus, the message here is that real beauty cannot be achieved by putting on layers of makeup or killing oneself at the gym. One is beautiful thanks to energy and confidence, which women cannot access if they keep obsessing over the impossible standards of today’s shallow, consumerist society. As Kohn and Silverstein show so clearly, beauty lies in the things one has to offer, and not in outer body image: when Amy is released from her insecurities, and even when she realizes she looks the same but still acts confident, she achieves personal and professional success.
Perhaps, for some, the message of I Feel Pretty may be lost in the humor, but to me it seems very clear. I do believe that Kohn and Silverstein created a film that is deeply necessary today, in a society that consistently brings down women, and convinces them that their authentic selves are never enough. Perhaps it is truly through comedy that one can best attempt to fix society.
I recommend I Feel Pretty to anyone who deviates from Hollywood “perfection,” or who does not find themselves on magazine covers. People who wish for more inclusivity should flock to I Feel Pretty.
© Farah Elattar (4/30/17) FF2 Media
Featured Image: a confident Renee, now released from her insecurities, works at the Lily LeClaire reception desk.
Top Photo: My friend Liz posing next to a poster for I Feel Pretty.
Middle Photo: Renee, happy with her "new" body, dancing at the Lily LeClaire headquarters.
Bottom Photo: an insecure Renee trying to achieve the impossible Hollywood body by going to a spinning class.
Does I Feel Pretty pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
There are many important scenes that feature dialogue between women: when Renee goes to her job interview, she is interviewed by Lily LeClaire's granddaughter "Avery" (Michelle Williams) and her assistant. Later, Avery and "Lily" (Lauren Hutton) discuss Renee's marketing tips.