In “I Feel Pretty,” Renee Bennett, played by comedian Amy Schumer, struggles with a lack of confidence — all she wants is to look and, more importantly, feel beautiful.
After falling off a spin bike at SoulCycle, Renee wakes up believing she is the most beautiful woman in the world. In her eyes, despite not undergoing any dramatic makeover, her appearance has entirely shifted, and her outlook on life reflects that — she is now unabashedly confident.
The film itself, however, doesn’t dig much deeper than that. This setup quickly becomes a series of slapstick situations peppered with SoulCycle name-dropping (seriously — a lot of this movie takes place in a SoulCycle).
The biggest offense in “I Feel Pretty” is just how un-funny it is. Schumer’s breakout “Trainwreck” was amusing, but the writing here, done by directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, is flimsy and confusing. Comedic, if not clichéd, scenes are set up well but cut off before the punchline.
Talented comedic actresses Busy Philipps and Aidy Bryant play Renee’s closest friends, but their characters are void of any real development — scrubs or an offhand comment about an interest in true crime are two of the only details we get about these characters. There’s not even much to say about Renee, outside of her pre-fall lack of self-esteem and post-fall crazed confidence.
Because of this lack of humor, the film requires a lot of mental gymnastics to figure out what message of self-confidence it advocates. The most noticeable gag in the film is Renee’s transformation — with no preparation, she competes in a bikini contest against models, for example, and it’s a moment for Schumer to unleash the brazen physical comedy she’s known for.
This confidence is also what lets Renee succeed in her job and meet her loving boyfriend. In the end, when Renee realizes she looked the same the entire time, she also comes to understand the power of self-confidence. The message “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” is neither revolutionary nor irrelevant, but it’s confusing when that confidence frequently becomes the laughingstock of the film. Is confidence really the solution to our problems?
A complicated take on confidence is fine — Renee’s newfound self-esteem helps her land a new job, but also leads her astray from her longtime friends and new boyfriend. When these scenes are left unresolved, the crux of the film relies on unfinished jokes and mixed messages. Self-confidence is the most empowering gift you can give to yourself, but it might lead you away from your supportive friends.
In the closing scene of “I Feel Pretty,” Renee attends yet another SoulCycle class. This time, she doesn’t need a head injury to feel empowered; she’s learned that confidence lives within herself.
As she pedals away, Lizzo’s “Good As Hell” plays into the credits. Lizzo’s self-empowerment anthem deserved a better movie with a more cohesive message, and so did we.