This film is downright sneaky good. Is it a romcom? Sometimes. Is it a female empowerment film? Kinda. Is it inspirational? Yes, in a delightfully realistic way. Is it a tearjerker? Hell yes, in a satisfying way audiences may not be prepared for at all. This is not to say that the rug gets pulled out from viewers in a cheap way, but it’s a movie that starts out full of easy one-liner laughs and as the film progresses, it becomes truly moving and vulnerable. The laughs feel more earned. Perhaps this film is a bit like running a marathon itself, but without the self-importance, shin splints, or the need for adult diapers.
The film begins with Brittany (Jillian Bell) as the “funny, fat friend” in New York City. She’s the quintessential side-kick friend in a film. She even has her gorgeous, Instagram influencer friends. Except in this film the focus is on her. The fun, taking shots scene out with girlfriends devolves into letting a guy treat her like trash because Brittany feels like compared to her friends, that’s what she deserves. She’s 30 years old and adrift. In an attempt to get an Adderall prescription she gets some very honest words from the doctor who tells her she needs to lose 50 pounds. She makes a lot of jokes, many of which are very good, but many which reveal that jokes are her defense mechanism for things that scare her. Because Brittany is broke and can’t afford a gym, she takes up running.
Her first attempt, just going a block, feels very true to life; that one block (mind you it’s a NYC block) feels long and endless. The film then goes into a bit of a montage mode and the running gets easier and she’s shedding dead weight literally and figuratively as she meets new friends that don’t want her to play the sidekick in her own life.
The film sags a bit when it makes the whole process of shedding a big chunk of weight and taking up running look easy, but that’s also a necessity of keeping the film running time tight. Luckily a good amount of energy gets spent looking at how Brittany navigates dating once she’s lost some weight and gained some self- confidence. This is a very rare moment in film, to examine how after a body may change, the brain and the way a person sees her place in the world doesn’t. Those moments of examination are some of the most interesting—Brittany dating, hitting a plateau weight wise, and viewing her new self in comparison to larger women. These moments where the film slows down and allows Brittany to stop with one-liners and get very raw and internal feel the most true and interesting to watch.
Brittany is chock full of really small but impactful performances; such as Michaela Watkins as Brittney’s neighbor, Lil Rel Howery as her brother in law Demetrius, and Utkarsh Ambudkar as Jern, Brittany’s “I hate him so much I love him” romantic foil. I’m calling it right now that Ambudkar, who’s stolen scenes in The Mindy Project, will become a thinking/laughing person’s heartthrob.
This film is a true two-hander in terms of credit. Writer and Director Paul Downs Colaizzo (known best as a successful playwright) captures what it feels like to be a woman examining her internal and external self in a way that’s pretty stunning for a man. The film is based off the true story of Colaizzo’s friend Brittany, who he sweetly ends the film with photos of her, and must have given him insights. The other driving force in this film is Jillian Bell, who goes on a real journey in this film. Not only does the audience see a legitimate physical change in her body, but in what she reveals emotionally. She starts the film hilarious, which audiences remember from her scene stealing turn in 22 Jump Street along with her many tv comedy cameos. From her years writing for SNL she’s adept at the quick jokes. But as the film progresses and audiences see the root of Brittany’s need to divert attention with laughter, Bell shows a real raw and incredibly human side to Jillian that can get squeamish and sometimes ugly, but feels so real. This film will definitely hit home for a lot of viewers who will be able to see themselves in her journey.