I Feel Pretty Misses the Mark on Body Positivity
You can definitely expect to laugh when you sit down to watch a movie starring Amy Schumer. Unfortunately for I Feel Pretty, her most recent flick, that’s about all you can expect.
Schumer’s latest love letter to herself shouldn’t be judged for its moral value. This film isn’t the two-hour crash course in body positivity that we were all anticipating--though it tries to be. Instead, it feels more like a frustrated blog post written by someone who isn’t really sure what she wants or how to get it. She just knows the pretty people (or according to Schumer’s character, the rest of the female species) have it easier.
After an insecure Renee Bennett (Schumer) bonks her head on a spinning bike during an unfortunate SoulCycle accident, she begins to see herself as she always dreamed: “undeniably pretty.” The effect of her hallucinations is life-altering, her newfound “confidence” leading her to obtain a boyfriend (a bland Rory Scovel), a job at a top makeup company, and ultimately, confidence.
It’s a good thing the film spends a considerable amount of screen time on Bennett’s life before her accident, because that is where the comedy is. Like her stand-up, Schumer shines when it comes to the humor of self-deprecation and jokes that resonate with the typical human being. Watching her epically fail to imitate a hair-styling tutorial is gut-wrenchingly funny, her accustomed disappointment all the more so.
But once she gets prettified, Bennett’s likeability decreases. She adopts a cocky and better-than-you attitude that alienates her from her friends, yet propels her to girlfriend status and a better job. In a way, her unappealing confidence seems to do more good than bad; her life takes off as she becomes the person she always admired. And for some reason, people appreciate her.
And that’s where we run into trouble. Bennett’s confidence, or the ultimate key to her success, isn’t actually confidence at all. Instead, it’s cringe-worthy, over-the-top arrogance that seems unattractive at its best and wildly inappropriate at its worst. Bennett’s provocative performance in a bikini contest on her first date with her new boyfriend is a testament to that. Any other girl who danced seductively on a stage for the pleasure of drunken men would be deemed promiscuous, not cool and confident.
But Bennett is lauded for this behavior, and so the film’s intended message falls flat.
Thankfully, Bennett’s confidence, while off-putting, is merely a ruse. Although Bennett eventually realizes that her success was in no way due to her outward appearance, she doesn’t slow down in her pursuit of beauty once the spell wears off. Instead, she continues to plunge herself into that hellish SoulCycle dungeon and spin until she is finally content with herself.
In other words, while her confidence may have helped her get this far, being pretty is still the chief necessity. And evidently, beauty doesn’t come as easily as a freak concussion to the noggin. It takes hard work!
So no, this isn’t about body positivity, this isn’t about confidence, and it surely isn’t about empowerment. This is Amy Schumer, a comedian, being thrown into a territory that is certainly out of her league. I Feel Pretty fails in its attempts to relay any sort of positive message about body image and confidence. But for now, at least, there is still something to laugh about.