If you’ve ever felt insecure about your weight – or have battled insecurity in general – Brittany Runs a Marathon is sure to resonate with you. This movie understands that insecurity isn’t about making yourself more presentable to others. It’s about learning to accept oneself. As the credits roll, we’re reminded that nobody is perfect, but we can all strive to be the best versions of ourselves. Writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo conveys these ideals with humor, warmth, and honesty, making for a crowd-pleaser that’s hard not to cheer for.
Jillian Bell isn’t necessarily a household name, but you’ll certainly recognize her from 22 Jump Street and The Night Before. Arguably her funniest performance was on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm as an assistant with a revealing muffin top. Bell has usually been a supporting player, but she always leaves the audience wishing that somebody would write her a star vehicle. Colaizzo has finally answered our pleas with Brittany Runs a Marathon. As the titular Brittany, Bell plays a New Yorker in her late 20s who snacks on too much junk food, gulps down too many glasses of wine, and parties far too late into the night. It isn’t until a doctor evaluates her BMI that Brittany realizes she may need to overhaul her whole life.
Brittany takes her first step towards getting into shape by jogging, but even a simple run in the park can be taxing. Nonetheless, Brittany develops a support group with her wealthy neighbor (Michaela Watkins) and a father who wants to prove hisathleticism (Micah Stock). She also strikes up an unlikely friendship/possible romance with Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a slacker crashing at a vacant house where he’s supposed to be watching the owner’s dog. The movie belongs to Bell, however, who brings her signature charm and comedic timing to the role. What’s more, Bell demonstrates her full acting range as a vulnerable individual who’s afraid of being loved.
Bell reportedly dropped 40 pounds throughout production and her weight loss is apparent in the film. Running a marathon doesn’t automatically solve all of Brittany’s problems, though. The real emotional payoffs come in the second act, as Brittany struggles with the idea of happiness. Even if Brittany reaches her weight goal, she’s convinced herself that loneliness is the only option. It takes a moment of true self-reflection for Brittany to discover that affection doesn’t equal pity. She also learns that a person’s mental state is just as important as their physical state when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Brittany Runs a Marathon shares a fair deal in common with Trainwreck and not merely because of Bell’s resemblance to Amy Schumer. Both films tell sincere stories about women who need to accept responsibility and to accept help from those who extend an olive branch. Between the two, Trainwreck is the funnier picture and there are admittedly times in Brittany Runs a Marathon where you wish they went the extra mile with a few more jokes. Even if the film doesn’t always go for the belly laughs, however, it always goes for the heart. On that level, it more than crosses the finish line.