Directed By Paul Downs Golaizzo
Starring – Jillian Bell, Jennifer Dundas, Patch Darragh
The Plot – Hilarious, outgoing and always up for a good time, New Yorker Brittany Forgler (Bell) is everybody’s best friend, except maybe her own. At 27, her hard-partying ways, chronic underemployment and toxic relationships are catching up with her, but when she stops by a new doctor’s office to try to score some Adderall, she gets slapped with a prescription she never wanted: Get healthy. Too broke for a gym and too proud to ask for help, Brit is at a loss, until her seemingly together neighbor Catherine pushes her to lace up her Converse sneakers and run one sweaty block. The next day, she runs two. And soon, after finishing her first mile, she sets an almost unthinkable goal: running in the New York City Marathon.
Rated R for adult language throughout, sexuality and some drug material
– Committed performance. What an eye opener this is for Jillian Bell, who receives her first starring role in the form of a character so unconventionally outside of the box for her. As Brittany, Bell channels a combination of insecurities, impatience, and depression, which really force her to use her humorous personality as a crutch. Her work here dramatically tears down any misconceptions about her acting, and brings forth an actress with depth, who isn’t afraid to immerse herself in the confines of the character. Speaking of immersion, Bell’s performance is also a physical one, as the transformation that takes place with her during the movie is one that instills believability to the progress that the character is making with her running. Bell becomes an entirely different physical specimen by film’s end, and the practicality of an actress willing to shed herself to accommodate the role is one that enhances the dynamic of her effort to the picture.
– Evolving humor. As expected, there is a lot of laughing material scattered throughout the picture, but what surprised me was how the humor is used as a manner to reflect the transformation in her personality, as the things in her life that never seemed attainable before come forth. As an example, the first half humor doesn’t land as strongly in punchlines, nor does it feel confident in Brittany’s delivery, and this is entirely intentional. As the film progresses, her deposits feel more timely and reminiscent within the dynamic of the scene, leaving nothing to feel out of place or smoothing out awkwardness that exists. This movie did make me laugh more than a few times, and the comedy inside offers a nice compliment to the romantic elements that spring during the second act of the film.
– Experimental camera work. There’s certainly nothing original or ground-breaking here, but I have to give Golaizzo credit as a filmmaker for inserting enough practicality in his compositions to really transcend this as a major motion picture. The handheld style never slips or distorts what’s depicted in frame, and the candid claustrophobia of body shots conjure up the vulnerability within Brittany’s discomfort that grants us further empathy for the character. The chosen angles certainly aren’t afraid to get dirty with their showcases, and as to where I would hate someone like Michael Bay for focusing on a woman’s body for perverted reasons, the requirement here further serves the argument of what needs to change within our protagonist’s life. At times, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” feels like a documentary, and if it wasn’t for some of the big names associated, the visual flare that Golaizzo promotes would be enough to cement this feeling.
– Educational. This is a movie that touches on more than a few important topics with women and body-shaming, taking ample time to flesh out the feelings far beyond the fat girl who dominates our story. For Brittany, there is a lot of contrasts in how she’s treated before and after her transformation by others, as well as the way she’s used as a crutch for careless friends who never take her interests to heart. For supporting characters, they endure the skinny-shaming from Brittany in a way that helps them escape the conventionalism of a role within these kinds of stories. This gives everyone included a substantial amount of heart and trail-blazing that I certainly wasn’t expecting, and reminds us that Brittany is every bit as guilty of the toxins unleashed in this society as everyone else she comes into contact with. I love a film that says something deeper about today’s place and time, and “Brittany’s” script never rests on its surface level laurels to sell the poignancy of its conflicts.
– Responsible. Perhaps the most important element of this story is the script taking an opportune stride to remind us that living healthy is so much more than just eating properly. Brittany’s disposition is hurt because of her choice in the binge eating, drinking, and drug lifestyle, but it’s really breaking down decades of walls within her friendships, lack of career, and dating dynamics that hints at a lot more than needs an epiphany. In this regard, her transformation is one that challenges her to examine every angle of her life thoroughly to get where she once felt she deserved to be. This positivity transcends the movie as just an entertaining one, and pushes it through to the side of inspirational that it wholeheartedly earns, as opposed to other so-called positivity films of the current day, like 2018’s “I Feel Pretty”.
– As a sports film. “Brittany” is obviously so much more than just another token in this popular subgenre, but on that merit it attains an informative level of depiction that outlines the difficulty with competitive running. The struggle of the protagonist is easily the most important aspect here, as Brittany is seconds from death when she initially begins her journey, highlighting the urgency of the situation. Even more, it does feel easier to her as the film persists, but she’s never Wonder Woman when it comes to the enhancing challenges that she continuously tackles. Even during the film’s prime conflict in the title of the movie, we feel the difficulty of the task, thanks in whole to Bell’s expressions of pain, as well as the deconstruction of her body. Even throughout all of her training, the marathon is one that grinds at her to unrelenting levels, and establishes runners who are every bit as much warriors as football, basketball, or baseball athletes.
– Surprises. Even though you can see the traces of familiarity as the story persists, the third act switch-ups really left me awestruck, and only increased my interest in the unraveling story. I won’t give anything away, but you should expect that nothing in Brittany’s life ever goes as it rightfully should, molding a totally unforseen antagonist within herself that she expects, but never sees coming. The tweaks in the script here were a bit stuffed at times, in terms of how much time is donated to them, but I appreciate a movie that deviates from conventionalism, because it keeps me firmly in-grip with the pulse of the story and characters.
– False advertising. This is one of those rare times where I’m glad that a film was marketed terribly, as the promising of a wacky comedy is anything but in a shape-shifting movie of this caliber. It is a comedy, sure, but it’s one that doesn’t rely on classless gags or insensitivity in its body-shaming. This is very much a classy film, and it’s one that eventually evolves into elements involving romantic comedies and even full-on dramatic tension that transcends its deeming. If you see this film, you should know that you’re getting something so much deeper than what Bell is usually typecast to, and even while this film is trying to attain so much tonally, it all fits together as this seamless ball of success that is every bit entertaining as it is important.
– Weak second act. There’s a point in this film where the running aspect is shelved in favor of a romantic comedy subplot, which even though I enjoyed, does take too much time away from the mission at hand. Because so much of the pacing within Brittany’s year during the first act is lightning quick, the second act stalls when it pauses everything around these two romantically linked characters, in favor of a dynamic that I honestly would’ve been fine without. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the romantic aspect of this script, but rather I felt that Brittany was so much stronger when she didn’t need a man hanging in the balance to motivate her into being someone she has always wanted to be. At a certain point, we forget what the primary conflict is, and it’s an example of this script trying to juggle too many aspects at once.
– Third act separation. Yep, even in a movie this experimental, it can’t escape the trope of a third act distancing between Brittany and everyone else, which nearly implodes the movie because of its length in appearance. First of all, the distancing itself doesn’t feel believable to me from Brittany’s standpoint or her friends. They are there to support her, yet they suddenly develop a sensitive exterior to her treatment? She appreciates their bond the entire movie, and then because of one comment she throws everything away? The other thing that bothers me about this is, unlike those other movies that use this trope, it doesn’t solve everything in the time it needs to still produce a pleasing ending. The ending here is OK enough, but it’s clear that this unnecessary conflict took too much air out of the momentum of the home-stretch, which was progressing smoothly until this. For my money, give us a small conflict, but let it be within Brittany herself, and not the many others she selfishly puts on pause, distorting her character in a way that contradicts everything that came before it.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+