Cinema Dispatch: Brittany Runs a Marathon

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Brittany Runs a Marathon and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios

Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo

Me and Amazon Studios?  We have an understanding.  Well… not so much an understanding as me having an opinion about them that the multi-billion dollar Mega Corporation doesn’t know or care about.  Their movies that come to theaters are often mid-range fare that almost affects the impression of a small studio like STX or a less ambitious NEON, but other than outright disasters like Gringo, they are reliably enjoyable if not particularly stunning achievements.  Does their latest outing that will surely be on a streaming box near you measure up to those ho-hum standards, or are we in for another feature more unbearable than their anti-union practices!?  Let’s find out!!

Brittany Forglar (Jillian Bell) is your typical millennial washout.  She’s living in New York City… somehow supporting herself with a part time job as an usher at a theater I think, but she’s not happy with herself and uses drugs, meaningless sex, and comedy to get her through the days.  However, after a visit from the doctor where she tries to get a prescription for uppers, the doctor delivers the harsh truth that her health isn’t all that great and she should probably lose a few pounds; not that weight loss in and of itself is healthy, but a lot of her REAL symptoms instead of the fake ones she’s trying to use to get the drugs can be alleviated or even eliminated entirely if she ate better and exercised more.  After some trepidation she does manage to start losing weight which builds up her confidence and she starts improving other aspects of her life including her relationships, her career path, and even plans on running the New York City Marathon as a benchmark for her achievement.  However, all this change is coming with a fair bit of resistance; not just form her but her friends as well as she has to look at the reality of her situation and come to terms that maybe some people in her life aren’t good for her and she’ll have to move on to greener pastures no matter how hard it may be.  Can Brittany get her life back on track and fulfill her newfound dream of finishing the marathon?  What pitfalls will she run into as she starts to make weight loss itself the goal instead of it being a side effect of taking care of herself?  Is her ultimate goal to hone her skills like a ninja and become Batman?  I mean… that’s the reason we ALL try to get in shape, right?

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“First question; do you have a tragic backstory?”     “I mean… the US economy?”     “Okay, that’s a good start.”

I really thought I was going to like this one, but sadly it ended up falling apart towards the end.  The biggest obstacle that Feel Good Movies have to overcome is the cynicism of its audience, and while some are more receptive than others, you have to walk a fine line between genuineness and sentimentality; otherwise your story will come off as maudlin at best and exploitative at worse.  This one managed to ride that line pretty effectively for most of its running time, but the third act is where things get derailed; where the sincerity starts to dry up and our main character becomes so much less engaging to watch.  Perhaps I’m one of those who are just too cynical for a movie like this, but at least from my perspective, what turned out to be a rather promising start turned out just be giving me false hope.  Same old spit; different day.

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You do this every other day for fifty years, and then you die.  Woo hoo…

There are good things about this movie and they are definitely worth pointing out because I was enjoying myself quite a bit for most of it.  The majority of this movie is about Brittany trying to improve herself in mostly realistic and relatable ways; changing your diet, exercising more, being more confident in yourself, and improving your relationships.  This aspect of the movie works because it feels pretty genuine and the primary conflict is about dealing with changes even when you’re trying to improve yourself which keeps the plot moving along at a steady pace; Brittany is always moving herself and by extension the movie forward even with the stumbling blocks along the way.  It’s mostly lighthearted and fluffy with only enough grit so that it doesn’t feel saccharin during these parts of the movie, and for what it’s worth the actors are solid in their roles even if this isn’t really an ACTING movie.  There are subtleties to be sure, but the goal is not to move us to tears like a trained thespian would but to instead come off as real enough which they succeed at for the most part.  The only one overacting here is Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar) as a guy she meets at her pet sitting job and while he does feel a bit out of place, he does add a shot of energy to the proceedings.

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“See the key is you want to use your GX Pokémon right away so you can… are you even listening to me!?”     “What?  Oh, uh… I am!  Sure!”     “Man, if Pokémon card game tips aren’t enough to win your love, I don’t know what will!”

All this works fine for the first two thirds of the movie, but things get kind of rocky in the third act.  It’s another movie that’s BASED ON A TRUE STORY so I guess I can’t complain all that much about its structure and plot turns, but the ALL IS LOST moment in the movie felt contrived in a way that the rest of the movie didn’t and it ends up going to such a dark place that, at least for me, I just couldn’t get back on Brittany’s side despite the movie insisting that things are totes cool now and that she’s GROWN from that experience.  It just didn’t work for me which was more than enough to regard this as a disappointment, but then the movie doubles down and turns into a straight up commercial for the New York City Marathon with footage from previous years, lots and lots of branding, and the coda of the movie basically being encompassed by it.  The movie’s greatest strength was its authenticity but it loses every shred of it at this point which was already waning for me from the ALL IS LOST moment we had just gotten over a few minutes prior and it feels like this movie wouldn’t even have been made if her story didn’t end on such a marketable endpoint.  Imagine the movie is someone giving you a REALLY good pep talk that gets you emerged and feeling confident about yourself in a way you hadn’t for some time… and then all of a sudden it starts handing you a pamphlet.  The words were there, the emotional resonance was there, but the context that it reveals itself to be in completely deflates all of that into the kind of cynical commercial treacly it was trying so hard to tell us it wasn’t.

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“I’D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR!”     “It’s actually two-hundred and ninety-five.”     “Wait, seriously?”

The thing is I don’t think the third act would have necessarily ruined it if the rest of the movie had been better overall.  There’s a certain lack of pizazz to the whole affair that keeps the narrative grounded, but they don’t compensate with a lot of depth or creativity elsewhere.  As problematic as I Feel Pretty can be at point, it has genuine gusto behind it with an interesting premise, a solid performance that frankly covers a lot of the same material here albeit much more efficiently, and it was written for comedy as opposed to a drama of sorts with the occasional comedic element in it.  Whatever points it gets for its authenticity, it just doesn’t have the jokes, the gripping drama, or much of anything to back it up; not to mention the copious amount of time jumping the movie does that makes it almost impossible to get too attached to the scenes or the character drama that is happing because we just whizz by it so quickly.  There’s enough to enjoy it for the most part in a rather passive way, but as I keep mentioning that third act just makes whatever enjoyment I got out of the first two just shrivel up like my heart which is at least three times smaller than it should be.

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DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES!  THAT’S HOW MEG RYAN DIED!!

At best, it’s a pleasant enough movie that you don’t need to see the ending of and at worst a dull dramedy trying to sneak in a whole bunch of insincere marketing garbage.  I’m just not feeling to kind about this movie once all is said and done, but it’s not a complete failure like Amazon’s current low point for me which is Gringo.  Don’t bother seeing this in theaters if you even have a chance to anymore.  MAYBE give it a chance if Amazon decides to stream this one on their service for free, but other than that it’s totally forgettable and not worth your time.  Heck, why don’t you spend the hour and a half watching this movie jogging instead if that’s your thing?  You’ll certainly feel better about yourself after that than sitting through this sponsored content disguised as a feature film.

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