There’s a good message lurking in Amy Schumer’s “I Feel Pretty” but it doesn’t emerge quickly – or fully.
That’s because Schumer uses the acting approach she assumed during her cable series, “Inside Amy Schumer.” She’s half-winking, half-acting, which undercuts the empowerment subtext.
Playing an online drone (in a dingy office that doesn’t have windows), she lets body shaming keep her from making the right moves. She falls during a SoulCycle class, bumps her head and magically emerges with a changed outlook. Instead of bemoaning her flaws, she celebrates them and interprets others’ disinterest as jealousy.
Rather than long for the front office, she marches right up and applies for a receptionist job. Because she’s so good at it, the boss (a Goop-ish Michelle Williams, who’s the film’s biggest surprise) seeks her input on a diffusion line destined for Target. Out of touch with anyone who doesn’t have a Kardashian on Snapchat, Williams’ Avery LeClair likes what she hears and pulls Schumer into the world of hotel suites and expensive room temperature water. Schumer responds – but not without a few stumbles.
She hurts a couple of pre-fall friends (Aidy Bryant and Busy Philipps), finds a boyfriend (Rory Scovel) and learns plenty about what matters. Unlike “Snatched” or “Trainwreck,” “Pretty” doesn’t rely on profanity to patch the gaps. It uses Schumer’s willingness to make fun of herself to hit home the lessons that need to be learned.
While “The Devil Wears Prada” might have been a template for this, directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein use fashion only as a vehicle to get Schumer out of her comfort zone. Dropping in several supermodels in cameos, they suggest the world but don’t wallow. Instead, they let Williams loose and, in several places, rule the film. She’s so funny trying to adjust to a world she never knew, you half think she’s doing Lina Lamont in “Singin’ in the Rain.” (Listen to her pronounce “Kohls.” That, alone, should convince you she’s very, very good.)
Philipps and Bryant don’t get enough time to bring their own shine to this, but they do give Schumer the confidence she needs to do things most actresses wouldn’t even consider.
With a bigger budget and better behind-the-scenes talent, she could be a significant rival to Melissa McCarthy. Both, however, don’t have the luxury of a Spielberg or a Scorsese directing them – which could make all the difference in the world.
“I Feel Pretty” isn’t a film of significance but it is a glimpse at what’s possible.