Amy Schumer’s sharp, occasionally hilarious, brand of comedy is reliant on a number of constants, one of the most defining of which is a frank, often brutal discussion of how she’s physically compared with other women. In her standup, she frequently mocks the vapidity of an industry that deems her abnormal while remaining confident and, despite some self-deprecation, secure about her appearance.
The plot of her latest star vehicle I Feel Pretty feels like comfortable territory then, focusing on the issue of self-image in a society ruled by superficiality. As was often the formula in her once rather brilliant sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, a relatable topic is used as the jumping-off point for a fantastical conceit. In the film, she plays Renee, a woman stuck in an unglamorous job, forever being made to feel lesser by bar staff, shop workers and men who reject her online. After being inspired by the movie Big, she makes a wish to be beautiful and the following day, after an accident in a cycling class, she wakes up to a different reflection.
But while Renee might see an altered face and body in the mirror, those around her still see the same person yet with an increased sense of confidence and her new self is suddenly thrown into a world of opportunity, romance and discovery.
Written and directed by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, a pairing who also scripted 2016’s smart, fresh and quietly progressive comedy How to Be Single, the film offers the potential for a similar balance of humor and life lessons. But while their previous attempt managed this with ease and a light touch, there’s a frustrating absence of both here, the end result feeling more like an awkwardly assembled attempt to recall high-concept hits from the 80s. There’s a bit of Working Girl as Renee tries to climb the corporate ladder of a cosmetics company using her experience outside of the beautiful bubble. There are elements of body swap farces like Vice Versa and Like Father Like Son as she gets used to her new look. And, as the film references, there’s a heavy debt owed to Big. Yet Kohn and Silverstein can’t quite figure out if it’s a parody of such fare or an earnest examination of the shallow nature of society.