I Feel Pretty (2018)
Change everything Without changing anything
I have no business reviewing this movie. It’s not my genre, it’s not my style, and it’s something that even without watching I know that I’ve already ended up seeing enough that it might as well be made with a cookie cutter in the film room. Still, I like to play a game I call “Wait-staff recommends”, and if I get a waiter or waitress to give me a movie recommendation then it’s only right of me to watch it regardless of if it fits into my preferred mold. The best part of the situation is I go in with low expectations, so the movie should have only up to go - not that it’s saved some of the movies I’ve seen. The worst case scenario is that it is in fact perfectly mediocre and I have to do battle with my brain to find anything to really talk about afterwards. Well, let’s find out if this one is pretty and witty or lame.
I Feel Pretty has the unfortunate happenstance of being in a genre that has so many movies come out that end up being so similar it might as well be a modern day pop song. The plot follows the same beats, the characters the same arcs, and even the music at times comes out of the woods to fall in line. Still, I’ve had the thought that a movie doesn’t have to be original to still be fun, and although I come to watching this with some slight trepidation about what I’ve gotten myself into, I know from experience that if it does end up being a clone, it should at least have some enjoyable moments to it regardless. Here, the plot is indeed the same in essence - person has no self confidence and thinks they are ugly and terrible, something happens and they see otherwise and everything starts turning up them until the third act hits and they have to reconcile with the fact that there was no magic and it was in fact them themselves and learn from it all a strong moral lesson. Some details are different - this time the person works for a makeup company, even the supposed “perfect people” have some issues with them, and it’s much further into the third act that the character comes to the realization that it was just them all along. It’s not enough that I wouldn’t say you haven’t seen it, or that it really stands apart - but on the bright side, it means that anyone who enjoys other movies of this sort already has a strong foot in the door towards enjoyment.
What about the characters though? Obviously, if the main character doesn’t do a good job the movies going to have a high chance to just crumble like some crumbly cheese. Well, surprising or not, Schumer actually does a pretty good job here. It might not be some super-award winning performance, but the girl does a good job especially when it comes time to turn on the cheerful, energetic and bubbly personality she takes on when everything starts going right. The characters around her do a decent job as well, but at times come off feeling as though they are written incredibly one note - particularly any of the background fodder. Her love interest does a good job conveying to some extent totally believable reactions to things going on, and you can believe his growth as inflicted by the relationship with the main in her middle phase. A lot of the other characters end up being there for either less time or less import, including her friends, resulting in pretty much all of them largely being forgettable or extraneous to the movie beyond perhaps a joke or the occasional interaction to elaborate a change in the main character.
Lest I forget the only genre tag attached to the film, this thing should be making you laugh at some point or another. As usual, humor is subjective, but the movie did actually legitimately get me to laugh about three times. It might seem like not a lot for a near two hour long movie, but considering I went in figuring this movie was going to be a total bust that’s pretty darn impressive- especially after you factor in that none of those three laughs came from something as low as a fart joke - although the one scene with some farts did get a snicker from me either way. It’s hard to really say that other people will find the same level of humor as me though - some of the jokes are all in their timing, and those work well. Some are more physical humor, like falling or smacking into things. Some are more of the “comedic effect” humor, where something is completely over a characters head and they are just painfully ignorant of whats going on. Sometimes it’s the interactions between characters that will try and get you to laugh, and sometimes it’s something that’s as simple as a character having a high pitched voice. They don’t all hit the ball, and some for me didn’t even feel like they came up to the plate, but there are a bunch of different things in this movie that could be called out as being jokes whether I find them funny or not.
The effects department didn’t have a whole lot to do here. Missing from this iteration of the genre is the usual element of showing us the viewers what the character now sees as the “new hotness” after the mind-change. I can actually sort of respect that from a story and message standpoint, but it does mean that largely the only thing that the effects team has to do is one scene with a bit of head bleeding and the everyday run of fashion, sets, and makeup. They do it well, don’t let me be misunderstood - it’s just always hard to make me really feel like the costumes, when they are normal day clothes, are that impressive. That said, the movie does a very good job of segregating out the actors to show whose supposed to be in the “hot” crowd and who isn’t, even disregarding a person’s personal preferences of attraction. The outfits, the sets, and just how the actors act do a good job of conveying this “better than thou” almost science fiction clean-room design around the “hot ones” that’s easily distinguished because of the attention. Unfortunately, again, that’s really all there is to it. The sets and clothes look like they exist, but there just isn’t anything there to really get my mind racing like a stop motion skeleton, or some practical dinosaur, or some computer generated wilderness full of alien species. Them’s the breaks though, and I didn’t expect much different.
Audio is balanced well. You never have a hard time hearing actors unless it happens to be intended, and the foley helps make the world feel pretty real. You don’t get random cartoon sound effects - at least not that I remember - that try and liven up a situation and make you laugh but really just break whatever the scene had going for it. The high pitched voice is probably the most fence sitting item in the movie, as at times it can get a bit annoying, but in all honesty it isn’t that bad most the time. Heck, even at that, it’s not even really all that high pitched in my opinion, that’s just how they address it. To me, it sounds way more airy than high pitched, but I digress. If you like modern music, you’ll probably enjoy the soundtrack far more than me. I’m not a big pop kind of person, and certainly it’s nowhere near as catchy as something you would have heard in something like the Lego Movie. The actors delivery of some lines also helps play into the jokes well, and more at points helps to show a characters confusion towards the main character. There’s actually even a scene where inflections are a talking point for a little bit.
The moral center of the movie is there, just like it always is. Also like most of its kin, it takes its time to literally spell it all out as blunt as possible to you at the end when it’s time to wrap up. It’s kinda heavy handed and cheesy, but it’s something that at least I - a person who doesn’t go out of their way to watch this breed of film - has tagged as a common practice and therefore isn’t that offended by it. One could argue over aspects of it - Schumer isn’t really that horribly overweight or generically unattractive that her character in turn seems that out of place until you thrust her into this realm of stick-thin and fit supermodels. Still, it’s more believable than having some super attractive (to the public opinion) actress like Gadot or Fox or Johanson in the roll. It also takes the chance to very lightly dabble in the side effect of being overconfident, when she starts to become this somewhat detestable person at the peak of her uptrend, but at that point you’ve gone through so much of the movie that it might as well just have not had it in there. Still, the message of being happy with who you are and having confidence in yourself is as strong as anywhere, and the fact they included (even to such a small degree) the potential dark side of such a message while showing it’s fine points and taking the time to show that everyone has their ups and downs no matter how “perfect” is a nice thing.
In the end, it ended up being better than I thought it would be. This isn’t to say that people should rush out and see it - if you like the genre I suppose - but rather that I didn’t end up regretting watching it. It was another one of those middle ground movies that doesn’t really feel that original at all, but still ends up getting a few laughs out of you and killing some time for your day in the end. It has a good message - as any of these types do - but also can show a little edge of that messages darkness, even if it doesn’t go far into it. It does feel a little long for what it is, but that’s a bit of a trend in modern times anyways. If this movie is your kind of jam, power to you for enjoying it - for me, I think I’ll still remember “I feel pretty” from the West Side Story song instead.