Opinion: I Feel Pretty Bad? Hollywood's wasted opportunity with Amy Schumer.
Warning ! contains spoilers
You couldn’t make it up. A film about women getting their priorities all wrong also has its own priorities all wrong.
I Feel Pretty has been blasted by critics. Very little of said blasting is to do with the considerable talents of Amy Schumer – although she did choose to be in it. There are some genuinely hilarious moments in I Feel Pretty and those all belong to Amy. If only she’d grabbed the laptop off writer-directors Amy Kohn and Marc Silverstein and made it herself.
Electra exists for this reason – that girls are taught insidiously from the moment they can focus that what matters is the way they look, whether they can bag a partner, and above all, how not to get old. Unfortunately in hoping for a ground-breaker I was forgetting Kohn and Silverstein’s back catalogue of blandness – How To Be Single and He’s Just Not That Into You, where they take an empowering message and somehow reinforce Hollywood’s impossible expectations of women.
"And finally, her boyfriend gets to reinforce the idea that she’s beautiful to him and that makes her ok."
I Feel Pretty has no sense of its own irony .Schumer plays Renee, an average-looking single girl in a dead-end job at a glamorous New York make-up company with a fixation that if only she was beautiful like Instagram tells us to be, her life would be ok. She hits her head on a pretentious bike in a Soul Cycle studio and magically, she perceives herself differently. Her new-found confidence inspires to go after the job she wants and to flirt outrageously and meet a really nice guy. So what will happen when she has to inevitably hit her head again and discover it was all an illusion?
There were times that I wish I’d hit my head as part of the improvised plot device from What Women Want too and perceive this film differently. Renee’s biggest ambition is to be a receptionist on Fifth Avenue – because pretty girls get hired for that. She never really desires more. although she gets a promotion from Michelle Williams’s squeaky-voiced CEO because Renee understands what ordinary girls, not beautiful girls, demand from a crappy make-up brand. She makes her final “I’ve learned something” speech telling a group of cheering fashionistas (trust me, the last group on earth that are ever going to believe this) that beauty is on the inside, as part of a make up launch she’s endorsing. And finally, her boyfriend gets to reinforce the idea that she’s beautiful to him and that makes her ok.
By the way, the guys don’t escape either. Comedian Adrian Martinez’s character is consistently humiliated as the fat man who has not the remotest chance of ever having sex (unless he hits his head too?) and this is in a film telling you that looks don’t matter.
Frustratingly, the controversy amongst a lot of female critics who don’t like the film is being billed as a “catfight.”
This is not a despicable film. It's actually very watchable. It's making a statement about confidence but with no nuance, because it's made rigidly within the Hollywood system that has to leave a girl with a) a guy and b) her life going somewhere. Otherwise how could she genuinely say she was useful and valuable just the way she is?
Frustratingly, the controversy amongst a lot of female critics who don’t like the film is being billed as a “catfight.” That I don’t lay at the door of Kohn and Silverstein, but it shows just how needed a great story incorporating these issues and stereotyping is.
Unfortunately even when women do watch it and it resonates, they exit the cinema into a society which judges them on the way they look. How are we going to change that? I Feel Pretty in no way helps navigate it, and that’s what’s disappointing.
I Feel Pretty is released May 4 2018 in the UK