Film Review – Brittany Runs A Marathon
Brittany Runs A Marathon
Self-care and self-acceptance are concepts with which it seems everyone struggles. No matter your class, gender, ethnicity, or social status, we all have issues with what we look at when we take a good hard look in the mirror. Being able to self-assess and then make positive changes for yourself can be amongst the toughest thing anyone can do. And it is often a lifelong struggle with no real end point. Those issues of taking the first step after not liking what you see is what the new movie Brittany Runs A Marathon is all about.
Jillian Bell (who was a memorable cast member on the TV show Workaholics) stars as the titular Brittany. At the beginning of the movie she is regularly sleeping in until the afternoon, frequently drinks late on weeknights, is chronically underemployed and broke, while covering up her disaffection by making people laugh. She lives in a messy apartment in New York with a roommate who is attempting to be a social media “influencer” with a highly curated online lifestyle.
Finding herself kind of at a dead end after her doctor points out she’s at an unhealthy weight, Brittany decides to take charge of her life one day by going for a run. Equipped with sweats and a pair of Converse, she starts just by running to the end of the block. A downstairs neighbor played by Michaels Watkins who is a fitness buff and looks like she has it all together invites Brittany to join her running group. As a whim she tries it, struggles but finds motivation with her newfound running friends. After trying daily routines for a while she sets a goal for her group to run the New York City Marathon the following year. To pay her way in, she books a job as a house sitter for rich Manhattanites. It is there she meets the night time house sitter Jern played by Utkarsh Ambudkar (who I first saw on The Mindy Project in a recurring guest role). He is a charming slacker who is basically squatting in this empty multi-million dollar property. As defacto roommates they form a bond, and Brittany goes about both training for the marathon and attempting to take control of her life in the face of being known as the type of person who wouldn’t do either of those things.
The plotting of this movie plays like a more earnest less raunchy version of the Amy Schumer movie Trainwreck. Both are about a woman who has hung onto their hard partying non-committal ways well past their expiration date. And so in both movies the main character decides to turn their life around. However, while there is a romantic interest this time around, this movie is much less a romantic comedy than it is a tale of personal growth. It is smart and funny, but also refreshingly earnest. There are no real villains here or anything. In fact, it refreshing to see a movie that is about generally decent people that still have to deal with day to day life issues.
This story is about self-acceptance more than anything. It touches on body issues that women deal with their whole lives as well as how the outside world sees them. When Brittany loses some weight during her training, guys who used to ignore her suddenly start being more flirty. She has doors held open for her. People notice her. While it’s positive attention, it’s also the rub of only being worthy of notice when a woman is thin. Also, she starts to discover that she has surrounded herself with people and things that reinforced her low opinion of herself. As her attitude changes she is able to see what is wrong.
Jillian Bell is terrific here as the lead character. She is both sympathetic and earnest. She’s not corny but mostly not mean. And she is genuinely funny. You see why the people in her life like her so much. Her relationship with Jern sparkles on screen. Her relationship with her brother-in-law played by the always fun Lil Rey Howery is comfortable and familial. He was a surrogate father figure to her growing up and that bond is apparent.
This script was apparently based on a true story. In 2011 Brittany O’Neill decided to lose 60 pounds and run the New York Marathon. As they say in the movie, it’s not about winning but finishing. This story is inspiring and positive. It may not be the most original formula ever and occasionally is a little obvious. But for the most part it is a much needed feel good movie that actually earns it’s losses and wins. With a standout role for the talented comedic actress Bell, taking a jog to the theater to see Brittany Runs A Marathon is worth it.
Also, be sure to check out our interview with writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo.