Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery
Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo
The 2019 Sundance Film Festival must’ve been an absolute blast this year with the amount of great movies that got their start there. Brittany Runs a Marathon adds to that growing list by being one of the summer’s best small-budget films with right blend of charm, humor, and true human emotion. A sentimental and personal performance by Bell and a plot that most people should be able to relate to allow Brittany Runs a Marathon to stand out as one of the funniest and most sensitive movies of the year.
The film follows Brittany Forgler (Bell), an overweight, unconfident, underemployed woman who masks her true feelings with her sense of humor. When she goes to her doctor to get a prescription for Adderall, the doctor tells her to get healthy and lose 50 pounds. After reluctantly starting to run, she eventually starts off slow and creates a hefty goal for herself; run in the New York City Marathon. While working on herself physically, Brittany also takes this time to reflect on her life and why she feels the way she does about herself. While Bell is known for her work in television, this is the first major leading role she’s had in a movie and she owns the spotlight from start to finish. If you’ve ever had issues with your self-esteem or body image, you can relate to Brittany’s struggle and Bell’s performance combines the right amount of humor with a surprising amount of empathy for a comedy that easily could’ve come at her expense. Not only that, but the athletic elements are done in a way where they can compete with some of the best sports movies of all time. When you look back at the greatest sports movies of all time, it’s tough to argue that Brittany Runs a Marathon doesn’t have a majority of the elements that make movies like Rudy and Miracle so successful, and the fact Brittany Runs a Marathon does without it being its true intention shows just how strong the movie is. When you break down the movie’s themes and look at the larger picture, Brittany Runs a Marathon really does cover significant material in a relatively short 103 minute runtime. Whether this is the pressure women face regarding their bodies, the evolution of dating culture in an online era, or the feeling of living an unfulfilling life, all of these topics are displayed with the appropriate atmosphere and help make the film that much more realistic. That’s ultimately what makes Brittany Runs a Marathon so successful, not the humor or the performances, but the fact that at one point or another, we have all felt exactly like one of the characters portrayed in this movie. When you have a movie that can so accurately display some of the most vulnerable areas of our lives, you end up creating an atmosphere that every type of audience can fall in love with. I hope this sparks a bright future for Bell, because after watching her in this role, I’m confident she can take on any role she pursues moving forward.
Overall, Amazon probably should’ve pushed Brittany Runs a Marathon more than it did, but for those who did watch the movie, they didn’t leave disappointed. When you stack a movie like this with traditionally comedic actors and force them into more dramatic roles, you run the risk of creating a movie that is too campy for its own good, but that’s never the case here. Amazon usually has a release or two that competes during awards season, and if they were smart they would absolutely start a campaign for Brittany Runs a Marathon to be this year’s contender.
Overall Score: 8.5/10