As discussed in part one of Film Threat’s thematic breakdown of I Feel Pretty, office politics and perception play an integral role in the Amy Schumer starring comedy. However, they are tertiary elements, chiefly used for subplots or characterizations of supporting players. Film Threat contributors Bobby Lepire and Tiffany Tchobanian will now discuss the key takeaways of the film and how self-acceptance and self-respect are as important as ever.
An early scene in I Feel Pretty sees Renee entering a gym, preparing for an intense group workout. She does not have the appropriate shoes for it, so she asks to rent a pair. The person working behind the counter asks Renee for her shoe size and she bashfully whispers the answer. She is ashamed to say her shoe size in public. Somehow this thing she literally cannot control is embarrassing to her. Juxtapose that scene, which is funny as hell, with her entering a bikini contest at a random dive bar later in the film. She ties up her shirt and undoes the button of her shorts, then prances onto stage acting as she has already won this competition.
While the two attitudes are stretched to the extreme for comedic effect, both scenes represent two sides of the spectrum: crippling insecurity and overconfidence. The woman who felt too ashamed to expose her bare feet has suddenly become an exhibitionist, stripping down in public. Her body hasn’t changed a bit, but she sees herself in a different light. It doesn’t even matter that she loses the bikini contest because she already feels like a winner.
One of the film’s great ironies is that Renee, unlike Avery (Michelle Williams) and Mallory (Emily Ratajkowski), remains surrounded by people who love her just the way she is. All of Renee’s insecurities are self-inflicted because her support system, including her new boyfriend, Ethan (Rory Scovel), all shower her with praise. Conversely, Avery and Mallory are consistently met with dissatisfaction, whether it is personal, professional or both. Their status dictates the way they are expected to represent themselves at all times.
“…great ironies…all of Renee’s insecurities are self-inflicted because her support system…all shower her with praise.”
A brilliantly hilarious scene between Mallory and Renee in a drugstore amusingly demonstrates the role perception plays in our lives. The model looks ready to hit the runway and a revolving door of men ask if she needs help. Meanwhile, Renee is in workout clothes and keeps getting treated like an employee. It’s a relatable dash of realism.
We all have days when we hop out to run an errand in sweats. For most people, a quick errand isn’t worth the extra effort and time it takes to look glamorous. If you already have a healthy amount of self-acceptance, then either scenario should not influence your self-esteem.
That’s the thing about perception – it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that you’re beautiful or not good enough. Supermodel or school girl, a bad day is a bad day for everyone. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the way you see yourself. Sometimes, it helps to see yourself through someone else’s eyes.
Ethan’s perception of Renee is probably closest to the audience’s views of the character. He sees Renee as brash, uninhibited, and entirely unexpected. Renee’s belief that she must look different is a constant source of amusement throughout the film. It is not until the end when she realizes it was all psychological. The same thing goes for her friends, Jane (Busy Philipps) and Vivian (Aidy Bryant).
Renee’s friends have always thought of her as likable, funny and smart. Sadly, when her newfound success and overconfidence goes to her head, she turns on her loyal gal-pals. During a group date, Renee attempts to be a wing-woman but she unintentionally starts highlighting their flaws. Unlike pre-accident Renee, Jane and Vivian are content with themselves. To them, the attributes she rudely rattles off are not perceived as flaws, so they are taken aback by their friend’s harsh judgments.
Jane and Vivian become understandably angry with her, as they don’t entirely comprehend all of her attitude changes. It is baffling because externally, nothing about Renee has transformed, yet she’s suddenly gained this mystifying new sense of self. She is simply seeing herself from a new and positive perspective. Essentially, self-love is the moral of this movie.
We all should “feel pretty” just the way we are. We can’t change others’ perceptions, but we can control the image we project. Renee’s confidence allows her to publicize her true self. She isn’t hung up on her insecurities, so she starts sharing her ideas. People take notice of her because she’s no longer afraid to speak her mind. Similarly, Avery makes a breakthrough by taking the lead in their business proposal. The pretty face of LeClaire proves she’s the brains behind the company too.
“We can’t change others’ perceptions, but we can control the image we project…”
At the company launch for the line, Renee suddenly realizes the truth. She never changed, not physically so anyway. After starting her pre-scripted speech, the photos to go along with it are from her days at the IT department, ponytail pulled back. The other photo is of her at the reception desk, hair and clothes slightly different. Renee turns her back to the crowd and stares at both pictures. This might be the smartest move I Feel Pretty makes – the concept of self-love is not magically told to her by a friend, Avery, or Ethan. It is only for Renee to discover and it’s something only she can give herself.
Take The Breakfast Club for example. Great movie, no argument there. However, each of the leads only feels better about themselves and their abilities due to other people. Several films have also had the theme just told to the main character, so that way the audience knows exactly where that person stands. The brilliance and effectiveness of I Feel Pretty’s message is the fact that Renee’s transformation is psychological and, ultimately, an internal act of self-acceptance.
The film’s climax is a tight close-up of Schumer’s face, as her realization of the truth is internalized. Her personal epiphany is then brought to the forefront as she changes her speech, includes her two best friends, and proclaims that this new makeup line is for everyone who is “ready to love themselves.”
There has been much discussion of the two most important characters in the film, Renee and Avery. Not only are they the leads, but they also have the most distinct arcs throughout the movie. Given the basis for this article, such a thing should be expected. However, that is not to say the male characters are one note or dull.
“Men are objectified, just the same as women. The ideal features may be different, but unrealistic standards are set for both sexes…”
The audience is introduced to Grant (Tom Hopper), Avery’s brother after Renee becomes the receptionist. She knows he likes a particular kind of pressed juice and has it waiting in her mini-fridge just in case he ever came by the office. He feels a bit weirded out that his life is so known that a random stranger can do such a thing, just for him. He is frustrated and trapped by having to always figure out if people are after him for his money, his looks (which, objectively speaking, the actor is a damn fine specimen of a man), and/or both, as a way to get close to his sister, or him as a person.
While a bit different from the way women are harassed, it is still an acknowledgment of one form of insecurities a man can have. Men are objectified, just the same as women. The ideal features may be different, but unrealistic standards are set for both sexes. Terry Crews, a hilarious and muscular actor, has spoken out with his own #metoo story. While I Feel Pretty never gets that dark, no person commits sexual assault on any one of the characters, it does prove the point. Men are held to impossible standards and can be victims as well.
The movie is not without flaws, and if Amy Schumer’s style of humor is not your cup o’ tea, then we doubt I Feel Pretty will sway you. However, it does have much more on its mind than the average comedy of this sort. The film thoughtfully brings these topics, themes, or issues up organically throughout the plot. Accomplishing that is no easy feat, and it gives the film a resonance and urgency much needed in these tumultuous times.