Friday April 10, 2020
Movie Review: Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)
It’s kind of funny for a few moments—like in Central Park when the grade school kids, tethered together, are able to walk faster than Brittany (Jillian Bell) can jog.
Most of the rest is blah or downright annoying. I guess that’s what happens when you undercut your premise.
Is the moral high ground ever funny?
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” is about a woman in her late 20s who decides to get in shape because she’s fat and unhealthy and going nowhere with her life. Her doctor suggests she lose 55 pounds. “That’s the size of a Siberian Huskey,” she says. “You want me to pull a medium-sized working dog off of my body?” Eventually the other shoe drops. That’s her first realization—that she needs to do this or die young.
Her second realization—after she is able to do this—is that she needs to stop being a dick. Coupled with this is the realization that it’s OK to be not svelte. She loses 40 of the 55 pounds pretty quickly but then gets stuck. The rest is tough. Scratch that. There is no “rest.” She tops out at about 160. My weight.
But that’s OK. Getting in shape, says Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery), her African-American brother-in-law who lives in Philadelphia, “was about taking responsibility for yourself.”
Sure, I’ll buy that.
“My whole life people told me I was lazy because of the way I look,” Brittany says.
Um. Well, it was also because you were lazy. We saw it at the beginning of this movie. It's played for laughs but you were way lazy.
The movie, in other words, fearful of being “fattist," loses the comedy for the moral high ground. That’s its primary problem.
It still might’ve gotten away with it if our lead hadn’t been such a dick. Brittany starts out rooming with a thin, pretty, Asian-American woman, Gretchen (Alice Lee), who’s a social media starlet, and who’s a dick herself. Why is she even rooming with Brittany? I guess because New York makes strange bedfellows? Worse, Brittany likes her, or wants to be around her, all the while disparaging their neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins), who simply wants building common areas kept free to trash. She also jogs, which means she’s a jerk or something. Until Brittany jogs, too. Here’s the thing: Catherine helps Brittany on her journey but Brittany keeps disparaging her. She barely, grudgingly accepts her presence. The two also hook up with a sweet gay guy, Seth (Micah Stock), who’s getting in shape to not embarrass his adopted son.
Eventually, Brittany sees Gretchen for what she is, gets a job as a daytime dog-sitter for a rich couple off on an extended vacation, and winds up living in the house with the night-time dog-sitter, and eventual love interest, Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who’s also shirking what responsibilities he can.
Brittany’s ultimate goal is to run the New York City marathon. Problem: If you’re an amateur you have to win a spot through a lottery (Seth does) or by raising funds (Catherine tries to help Brittany but ... yeah). Anyway, Brittany gets depressed, gains weight, keeps running, develops a stress fracture, can’t do the NYC marathon after all. Catherine and Seth do it, Brittany gets upset, heads to Philly, cuts all ties. Because she still hasn’t realized what a dick she is.
It’s the following NYC marathon she runs. And finishes.
The story is based on Brittany O’Neill, the roommate of first-time writer-director Paul Colaizzo. It won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, which lets us know how much such audience awards are worth. It also got a 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which lets us know how much Rotten Tomatoes ratings are worth.
Final note: I watched it with my wife, who lived in New York for 20 years. There’s a recurring bit in which Brittany is running for a subway yelling “Hold it! Hold it!” When she’s fat, they never do. Once she’s actually a runner, they do.
My wife, with disdain: “No one ever runs for a subway in New York yelling ‘Hold it! Hold it!’”
Yeah. That, too.