Review – Eye Of The Beholder (“I Feel Pretty”)

Pretentious clap-trap or meaningful self-help awareness? You can decide with Amy Schumer’s newest movie about a chubby girl that gets knocked in the head, wakes up, and suddenly thinks she’s a beautiful supermodel. Sorta like a female version of Shallow Hal meets The Wizard of Oz.
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Schumer is Renee Barrett, a schlubby working girl in NYC who, apart from being a little overweight, also suffers from low self-esteem and works crunching numbers for the prestigious beauty makeup firm of Lily LeClaire, but in the basement of a Chinese laundry. Her dreams of being gorgeous are dashed, due to her sad-sack attitude, but that all changes one day at her health club, SoulCycle. She falls off her cycle, bangs her head, and faster than you can say, “You’re not in Kansas anymore”, Renee suddenly “sees” herself as drop-dead beautiful and a slender woman.

Bolstered by her new ‘appearance’, her attitude and charisma explodes, leaving her two ‘loser’ BFF’s, Vivian & Jane (Aidy Bryant & Busy Phillips), in the dark. Renee applies for (and gets) a receptionist job at the massive LeClaire HQ office, and meets mousy CEO Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams), who is often scrutinized by her founder-mother, Lily (Lauren Hutton) for not reaching their product line out to the “common folk”. Of course, Renee (a voice for the just that market) speaks up and wins over Avery and her unnaturally handsome brother, Grant (Tom Hopper).

Meanwhile, Renee has just met Ethan (Rory Scovel), an equally low-esteem kinda guy, who can’t really figure Renee out, but falls for her anyway and her lust for life. Ah, but just like Peter Parker/Spider-man becoming Venom, “new” Renee becomes the same kind of plastic, crass girl that used to treat the “old” Renee like dirt. And just like the formulaic movie plots of the 80’s, another BONK on her head brings Renee back from OZ to Kansas, causing her former ‘life’ to disappear and making her retreat back to her former soul-crushing, self-loathing attitude.

However, there’s nothing like a third act pick-me-up to put everything to rights, and first-time screenwriters and directors Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein do just that. Following a very basic through-line, the story is a classic throw-back to the 80’s like Freaky Friday, Mannequin, and Big. Fact is, they even show bits of the movie Big, which the plot follows in a way, along with a reverse Shallow Hal. There’s no doubt this movie, at it’s core, delivers a powerful message that hits home with Schumer personally, as well as millions like her: being able to see yourself as a winner, despite what you look like. I found myself cheering her on at one point, being that way myself.

I have to admit, I really like Amy Schumer. She’s multi-talented, smart, damn cute and, given the right material, is hilarious. While this movie is no where near the raunchy LOL comedy of Trainwreck (which Schumer wrote), or the outrageous skit comedy of her old cable TV series, this very funny (and occasionally heartbreaking) film brings Schumer back on track after her 2017 disaster, Snatched, as a formidable actress & comedienne. Although this rom-com may be superficial, the moments of Schumer trading off quips with Scovel are the best and look entirely ad-libbed and fun. The real problem is the overall scope of the movie, which is the same ‘ol, same ‘ol tired, over used plot dished out again and again.

You can tell that Kohn & Silverstein are beginners in the screenwriting dept. by virtue of the sappy storyline and dialogue, especially with the requisite third act rousing ‘power’ speech (monologue) that you know is coming. Many have chastised this movie as “skinny-shaming” or Schumer’s personal attack, but I can clearly see where she’s coming from. Kohn & Silverstein are holding a mirror up to the world of those “perfect” people for a little payback. And it works, but in a humorous and not repellent way.

 
Shallow Hal (2001)
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Following the massive success of Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and Me, Myself & Irene, the Farrelly Brothers (Peter & Bobby) slowly declined in their movie prowess with this film about a shallow man hypnotized into thinking that all ugly people are beautiful.
 
We start off with two guys, Hal Larson (Jack Black) and his bestie, Mauricio (Jason Alexander). Now Hal is a nice guy, but he’s a very superficial dude who fixates only on the physical beauty of women, while his radically shallow friend, Mauricio, sees the most minute flaws in women, and consequently, the two never get dates. Oh sure, Hal’s tried to date his attractive apartment neighbor, Jill (Susan Ward), but she finds him way too repugnant. But everything changes one day when Hal becomes trapped in an elevator with famous life coach, Tony Robbins (playing himself).
 

Listening to Hal and his life’s disappointment, Tony hypnotizes Hal into only seeing only a person’s inner beauty, without knowing he’s been hypnotized! Later he meets Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), the extremely obese daughter of the president of the company where he’s employed. Although Rosemary is quite rotund, Hal sees her as slender and beautiful and is immediately smitten by her. Rosemary initially interprets Hal’s interest as mocking (as she’s used to it), but begins to realize his feelings for her are sincere. Mauricio, dazed and confused about Hal’s new taste in women, can’t believe that Hal would go for such a women.

While Hal and Rosemary start a romance and have your typical rom-com montages, Mauricio’s jealousy is dead-set against Hal’s happiness. After convincing Robbins to give him the trigger words to undo the hypnosis, Hal’s “vision” is removed, causing the inevitable second act break-up, which leads directly to the equally inevitable third act reconciliation when Hall sees Rosemary for who she truly is.

Written by the Farrelly’s and Sean Moynihan (his one and only screenplay), this predictable and semi-funny movie does what the Farrelly’s are famous for… making fun of the disabled and unattractive. Veering off course from their usual forte, they went with a dramedy this time, trying for more of a social satire than a LOL movie. This was their BIG mistake. The material was tired and over-used, have every clichéd “fat tropes” in the book thrown in, not to mention that making fun of fat people, the disabled, and others just isn’t funny. Fact is, when Paltrow was decked out in her SPFX ‘fat suit’ and make-up, she walked around NYC in disguise and nobody would talk to her, help her, or acknowledge her presence because of her girth.

This was also Jack Black’s first leading role in a movie and you could instantly see he could carry a film. With his manic delivery, his comedic & dramatic chops firing on all cylinders, his presence alongside Alexander was perfect. Alexander (wearing the worst toupee ever), BTW,  is wonderful, doing his usual George Costanza bit. Paltrow is good, but not great, having little chemistry with Black. Check out Black’s musical partner, Kyle Gass, in a minor role and adorable Brianna Gardner (daughter of SPFX master Tony Gardner) as a burn victim that’ll break your heart.

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