Brittany Runs a Marathon

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Brittany Runs a Marathon
dir-scr Paul Downs Colaizzo
prd Margot Hand, Tobey Maguire, Matthew Plouffe
with Jillian Bell, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Michaela Watkins, Micah Stock, Alice Lee, Lil Rel Howery, Kate Arrington, Sarah Bolt, Peter Vack, Patch Darragh, Mikey Day, Dan Bittner
release US 23.Aug.19,
UK 1.Nov.19
19/US Prime 1h43

ambudkar watkins howery

ambudkar and bell
Combining brightly funny comedy with darkly intense emotion, this comedy-drama has strong echoes of Amy Schumer's much more Hollywood-style I Feel Pretty. It also has the standard film-school plot structure, which along with the title leaves little doubt about where it's going. But writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo's dialog crackles with life, and the gifted actors bravely poke fun at themselves within some serious situations.
In New York, Brittany (Bell) is closing in on 30 having accomplished nothing with her life. Blaming her weight for her misfortune, she's finally challenged to do something about her health. So she cuts back on alcohol and junk food and tentatively starts running with her super-fit neighbour Catherine (Watkins). Her best friend and flatmate Gretchen (Lee) is dubious. But she's cheered on by fellow runner Seth (Stock), who has his own reasons for getting fit. And when she takes a side job as a dogsitter, she meets the rather ridiculous Jern (Ambudkar), who adds another challenge.
Adapted from a true story into a standard three-act formula, the film thankfully adds lively, jagged supporting characters whose commentary is hilariously unpredictable. At the centre, Brittany is both likeably pathetic and annoyingly abrasive. But the script is clearly cheering for her, and that helps make sure the audience is on her side. This makes the most of the more emotional beats in the final act, even as it abandons the raucous onslaught of comedy.

Bell plays Brittany with fearless self-obsession, a young woman who has lost all perspective after years of verbal abuse, both passive and aggressive. Brittany doesn't know that she's her worst critic; refreshingly, the story is more about her dawning of self-awareness than her get-fit regime. The actors around her provide terrific foils, with particularly engaging turns from Ambudkar, Watkins, Stock and Lee. And Howery has a couple of strong moments as Brittany's no-nonsense brother-in-law.

While there are some surprises in the sideroads, it's easy to predict the central plot's main trajectory. But that doesn't make it any less resonant. Colaizzo directs the film in a lively, jostling style that adeptly captures Brittany's perception of events around her. This offers an edge to the entire film, making pointed comments about things like social media and workplace prejudice without shouting them too loudly. It also pulls the viewer right into the fray, experiencing Brittany's frazzled existence so vividly that we almost feel like we are helping her find her way out.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 4.Jul.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall