Amy Schumer is outstanding as a woman with self-esteem issues – and later, as a woman with reckless confidence – in I Feel Pretty, a well-intentioned and surprisingly thoughtful new comedy that unfortunately muddles its uplifting message during its climactic scenes.
Schumer’s Renee Bennett struggles with insecurity over her appearance, something that has kept her single in her private life and locked away with IT tech Mason (Adrian Martinez) in a server room at the office.
But when she bonks her head during an intense spin class – after, in Big-like fashion, wishing to be pretty – she awakes to find a different image in the mirror: a drop-dead knockout who sends her life in a new direction.
For the audience and other characters in I Feel Pretty, including besties played by Busy Philipps and SNL’s Aidy Bryant, Schumer still looks like Schumer. But the potential concussion has resulted in a whole new outlook on life for Renee, and a boost in confidence leads to instant success all around.
In her professional life, Renee’s newfound confidence wins over her bosses at an upscale family cosmetics company, Lily LeClaire (Lauren Hutton) and grandchildren Avery (Michelle Williams) and Grant (Tom Hopper), who install her as the new receptionist at the front of the office.
In the dating world, Renee quickly charms Ethan (Rory Scovel), who she bumps into at a dry cleaner. Not all the changes are positive, however, as Renee’s newfound sense of self-worth also puts up some barriers between her and her old friends.
In another, lesser film, I feel like two actresses would have played the lead role of I Feel Pretty, to give the audience the real-deal perspective of what Renee sees in the mirror. But Schumer is outstanding and sincerely believable as both versions of this character: someone with both deep-rooted insecurities and extreme overconfidence, head trauma or not.
While the trailers for the movie highlight slapstick scenes with Schumer dancing onstage with traditionally svelte bikini models, what they don’t let on is that Renee fully wins over the on-screen audience with her natural charisma and uninhibitedness.
This scene and others like it aren’t played for laughs – not entirely, at least – and make the heartfelt point that courage and confidence can be just as appealing as more traditional forms of beauty. As Schumer’s character sees herself in a different light, so too do the people that surround her.
But the final third of I Feel Pretty gets bogged down with a subplot that seems to contradict the inner-beauty theme of the rest of the movie, and includes the new Lily LeClair diffusion line of Target-backed cosmetics. Having Schumer’s Renee hawk makeup during the film’s final scenes – which equates budget cosmetics with average looks – just doesn’t jell with the message that preceded it.
I Feel Pretty is worth seeing for Schumer strutting her stuff – along with some scene-stealing work by Williams as the pipsqueak-voiced but unexpectedly three-dimensional Avery – even if the finale doesn’t live up to the movie that came before it. While still something of a mixed bag, it’s a lot more thoughtful than the film being sold by its trailers.