I Feel Pretty (3 stars)

I Feel Pretty

Amy Schumer is at the centre of a promising but conflicted comedy

Amy Schumer starring in a comedy called 'I Feel Pretty'? Stand back Naomi Wolf! It's a film that comes pre-packed with potential: Schumer is provocative, hilarious and not traditionally beautiful and her insightful 2015 breakthrough Trainwreck managed to be as heartrending as it was sharp and funny.

Here, she plays Renee Bennett, a wannabe working for a luxury cosmetics brand in New York – but from their Chinatown basement office. Her co-worker, the dysfunctional Mason (Adrian Martinez), grunts and doesn't do office banter. There's a reason for that: he has no social skills. Renee's dream is to join the big girls in the brand's spanking, sparkling head office but, slightly overweight, gawky and downtrodden, how can a woman like her fit in with the perfect pouts of downtown?

Her best friends Viv (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philipps) are awkward geek girls too. Unwilling to give up, Renee attends a spinning class but, instead of losing weight, she loses her mind. Falling from her stationary bike transforms her into someone who is completely gorgeous – in her own head. Externally, she is unchanged.

I Feel Pretty questions whether a woman can be beautiful merely if she thinks she is. Its answer is mostly yes. But, instead of radiating confidence, Renee becomes everything you hate in a person: a braggart, pushy and snobby. She is arrogant and denigrates her friends' tastes in men on a group blind date. She bullies another chap (Rory Scovel) into going on a date with her.

When the film fails it is because it often perpetuates what it is trying to destroy: the idea that judging by appearances is a legitimate mode of assessment. Unlike Trainwreck, Schumer didn't write this script – perhaps she should have. Penned by debut directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (who wrote How to Be Single), I Feel Pretty's meandering narrative is not even offset by a cast that includes Naomi Campbell, Michelle Williams and the still incredibly watchable Lauren Hutton, all part of that downtown beauty set that needs to tap into the world of working women in order to survive.

Although far from a disaster, taken alongside the disappointing Snatched, it suggests that Schumer should consider giving up being the poster girl for imperfections. What she needs now is a script that engages her considerable mind – one that also engages ours.

General release from Fri 4 May.

I Feel Pretty

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • US, China
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
  • Cast: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Emily Ratajkowski
  • UK release: 4 May 2018

Renee (Schumer) is a gawky and downtrodden worker in a luxury cosmetics company who becomes convinced she is gorgeous after hitting her head at SoulCycle. Conflicted comedy which tries to argue that one shouldn’t judge by appearances, even while it does so itself; Schumer is a gifted performer who needs better material.