I Feel Pretty: A Chick Flick with a Universal Moral

by Jacob Levy on March 27, 2019

The key to feeling good about yourself isn’t as simple as erasing your worries with a concussion, as Renee Bennett (Amy Schumer) does in I Feel Pretty. In my experience, having self-confidence is a never-ending internal struggle with my doubts. Even though I always push through—eventually landing my current job,1 for instance—there are always more concerns just around the corner. So, though the film’s message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is geared towards women, I found it to be quite moving.

Before her accident, Renee was never happy with how she looked—exercise bikes couldn’t hold her weight and guys would pass over her to hit on other women. All of that changes after she hits her head during spin class. Suddenly, Renee looks in the mirror and is pleased with what she sees. With a newfound, almost cartoony enthusiasm rivaling that of SpongeBob SquarePants, not only does Renee manage to snag a boyfriend named Ethan (Rory Scovel), she also climbs the ranks of cosmetics firm Lily LeClaire. (She goes from doing website maintenance in a basement office to giving a presentation of an upcoming product line to top executives). Given how challenging suppressing insecurities can be, it’s gratifying to see Renee do so with such ease.

With a sharp contrast in performance before and after the accident, Amy Schumer makes Renee’s transformation believable. Her hushed murmur during in an early scene in which Renee asks for shoes in size double wide clearly conveys Renee’s insecurities, while the loud, brashly confident tone she adapts for later scenes demonstrates her newfound confidence. After the accident, Renee checks herself out in the mirror and resoundly proclaims how great her breasts and butt look with little regard for what Tasha (Sasheer Zamata), the cyclist instructor, will think of her.

If you’re worried that watching Schumer channel that much positive energy for almost two hours will get annoying, rest assured that it rarely does. Outside of a couple cringey scenes where Renee’s new personality gets on the nerves of her best friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps), the film’s focus is, thankfully, kept on her positive attributes. It’s hard to be irritated at Renee when she encourages an introverted Ethan to be more outgoing or works to ensure that LeClaire’s new products are better suited for the common woman.

As much as I connect with I Feel Pretty, I wish the filmmakers trusted me to infer the film’s message through watching Renee bounce from one accomplishment to another. Instead, the ending shows her explaining the lesson while presenting LeClaire’s product line. Spelling it out makes me feel condescended to—episodes of children’s shows such as Sesame Street and Arthur conclude the same way.

Even with a heavy-handed moral, I Feel Pretty serves as a powerful reminder of what’s important. Amidst concerns such as finding the right suit for work or building muscle at the gym, it’s easy to forget that what truly matters isn’t how I look, but how I feel.

  1. See my review of Monsters University for greater detail