"...Schumer’s wide facial features reminded me of a blonde Lou Costello around the time of Buck Privates, or Jennifer Aniston’s somewhat heavier, not-as-lucky sister who watches a lot of TV.”
That's how Jeffrey Wells described Amy Schumer in a preview of Trainwreck, stooping to yet another low in a career defined by attempting to find the bottom of the barrel. Of course, Schumer - being the consummate wit and actual talent in this scenario - laughed the whole thing off and even claimed that Wells later redacted the statement and said he wanted to date her. WhenTrainwreck was out, Schumer (rightfully) also claimed that she could "catch a dick whenever she wanted." That's totally true. Any guy in his right mind would be nuts to turn down a woman who looked as good as she does. The fact that she can verbally outgun you eight days out of seven works in sync with her anti-heroin chic physique to become the theoretical "total package." She's a damn fine woman, and knows it.
Yet the fact still remains: shit like what Wells said hurts. It doesn't matter if you're Sophia Loren or Bea Arthur. If someone then follows up the aforementioned diss with an equally ridiculous "apology" that included this little ditty, you're probably going to be doubly pissed:
"....[Schumer's] not grade-A or even B-plus material, certainly by my standards as well as those of any moderately attractive, fair-minded youngish heterosexual dude who’s feeling hormonal or what-have-you.”
Now, that's just downright rude. But this brand of casual cruelty is the focus of Schumer's latest – the semi-high concept comedy I Feel Pretty – which tackles female confidence not so much from the perspective of "what if an average (or even ugly) girl bumped her head and suddenly became convinced she's the loveliest person in the world?" (though that's essentially the logline), but also a universal sense of "what could we all achieve if we simply stopped giving a shit how others perceived us?" There's a Mike Judgian element to the way Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (Never Been Kissed, He's Just Not That Into You) approach Schumer's aspiring makeup specialist, Renee Bennett. She's Peter from Office Space meets The Devil Wears Prada’s Andy Sachs, a girl who inadvertently frees herself of expectations while navigating a glamorous labyrinth whose inhabitants mostly view her like some sort of Tolkien bridge troll.
Only where Peter made the choice to just stop listening to the boss' bullshit, Renee’s newfound confidence is derived from a contrived moment of cinematic slapstick magic. During a second go at SoulCycle – her initial attempt having ended with her planting vagina-first onto the bike’s hard seat after it gave out under her – Renee is again flung from the metal horse and hits her head. Unexpectedly, all the second-guessing outfits and envying supermodels who work at her company's home office is gone completely, replaced by an all-consuming belief that the basement-dwelling sales support girl is now the sexiest fox in six universes. Nothing's going to stop her – from getting the men she wants or the flagship receptionist position she covets (a stepping stone to bigger and better things at Beauty, Inc.) – and Renee charges headfirst into her pursuit of both.
As you can probably guess, this all works out to Ms. Bennett's advantage in a big way. The namesake of her dream job – makeup mogul Avery LeClair (Michelle Williams) – is intrigued by this self-assured woman, who seems so much more in touch with the average "Target" customer the high-end label’s new "diffused" (read: budget) line is geared to reach than anyone who's ever stepped foot in her office before. On Renee’s personal front, good-looking geek Ethan (Rory Covel) suddenly has a date with the new queen after a chance encounter at the dry cleaner, where the vivacious lady puts her number into his phone (and then quickly picks up the blouse she had to get sangria vomit stains removed from). Thus blossoms a strangely touching romantic core to buoy the picture, as these two folks – one mind-blowingly free from insecurity, the other totally self-aware that he "doesn't date much" – were essentially waiting for one another to come along their whole lives. It just took a freak cardio accident for that to occur.
Ethan isn't the only one who struggles with image issues, as nobody in I Feel Pretty actually believes the movie's titular mantra. In fact, the most insecure individual may be the picture’s most successful, as Avery LeClair knows her high-pitched voice sounds like she's constantly huffing helium. Williams is on another planet as LeClair, playing the makeup mogul as this bizarre alien version of Gwyneth Paltrow meets Bobbi Brown, always awkwardly sidling through every scene, being bossed around by her domineering grandmother (Lauren Hutton) and side-eyed by her hunky brother (Tom Hopper). Yet when Renee comes along, Avery finally finds an inspiring partner who isn't afraid of just tossing everything out there and letting the chips fall where they may. Williams gives the type of supporting performance these comedies need – just slightly this side of bizarre while never forgetting the very human anxieties that render LeClair relatable.
Of course, with newfound confidence comes conflict, as Renee was actually doing pretty well for herself before she went "boom" at SoulCycle. She’s got a decent job, even if it’s jammed into a Chinatown office she’s forced to share with a lumpy, socially awkward co-worker (Adrian Martinez, stealing every scene he's in with about 100,000 PG-13 variations of “fuck my life”). She’s got two best friends (Aidy Bryant and Busy Phillips), with whom she guzzles wine and attends group dates. When Renee is no longer content with all that, her BFFs correctly take issue with her trying to "fix" them as well. Though it’s certainly coming from a good place, they were doing alright, too. Who's Renee to tell them they should work on themselves?
That's really what makes I Feel Pretty fairly special. Kohn and Silverstein (along with Schumer) concoct a tricky goofball fantasy (that's truly funny), while never forgetting the fact that these folks have all been damaged in some way when others judged their real-world image and idiosyncrasies. Words hurt, and people carry everything – from juvenile playground insults to tiny familial snipes – around like heavy baggage, allowing these petty verbal lacerations to keep them from truly embracing their most confident self. I Feel Pretty tells us to let all that shit go, and just love who we are, complete with the "flaws" others perceive that make us "us". It may sound corny, but there's genuine nobility in this notion, and Schumer conveys the movie’s message utilizing the beautiful comedic talents she's been gifted with. Another way of putting it? She tells the Jeff Wells of the world to go fuck themselves and just does her thing. We could all take a lesson from that.