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Non-Review Review: I Feel Pretty

I Feel Pretty has a very bold premise for an aspirational comedy.

Renee is a young woman wrestling with her insecurities, who dreams of being more beautiful. Inspired by a late-night viewing of Big, she is inspired to transform that dream into a wish, and pleads with some external power to physically transform her. Following an awkward accident (and a brain injury) at her “Soul Cycle” class, Renee wakes up and does not recognise her own body. The only catch is that the transformation is strictly internal. Renee is delusional. Her physical appearance has not changed, but the way that she sees herself has.

Reflective anxiety.

That is an ambitious premise, but also a loaded one. There are any number of potential misfires and miscalculations that could sabotage that premise, the skillful execution of the movie relying upon a pitch-perfect management of tone, a key understanding what the movie is trying to say at any given moment, and the sense that all of the production team are working from the same template towards the same goal.

Unfortunately, I Feel Pretty lacks that sense of cohesion, resulting in a mismatched tonal disaster, a film never entirely sure whether it is laughing with its protagonist or at her.

A tough premise to stomach.

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Non-Review Review: Snatched

Snatched is a collection of comedy sketch pieces arranged around some of Amy Schumer’s favourite themes.

Some of these gags land very well. Indeed, Snatched works best as a genre spoof, riffing on the tropes and expectations of the standard “Americans have an adventure abroad” film as a mother and daughter team become embroiled in a heated pursuit across South America. There are individual characters, actors, and jokes that work very effectively within that framework. More to the point, Snatched offers a veritable smorgasbord of gags.

They haven’t a leg to stand on.

The problem is that many more of these jokes miss. They miss for a variety of reasons, but there are two big recurring problems. The most obvious issue is that many of the jokes are entirely predictable and follow the path of least resistance. In quite a few scenes, it is very easy to tell where the set-up is leading before the pay-off arrives. Snatched is a very conventional and very safe comedy adventure.

There is also the slight problem that Snatched is trying to have its cake and eat it with some of its central ideas. Schumer’s comedic targets tend to be white middle- and upper-class Americans, the joke being their reaction to the outside world; although Schumer is not credited on the script, Snatched is very clearly trying to play into that. However, Snatched repeatedly goes for the low-hanging fruit and often seems to be playing its more reactionary gags entirely straight.

Things went South fast.

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Non-Review Review: Trainwreck

Trainwreck is a refreshing romantic comedy, a collaboration that plays to the strengths of both lead and writer Amy Schumer and director Judd Apatow. The comedy follows a young woman who learnt from an early age (through inappropriate doll metaphors) that “monogamy doesn’t work.” Amy is very much a female version of the arrested adolescent character that Apatow helped to popularise in mainstream American comedy, the immature adult who has yet to face any real personal or professional responsibility.

In some respects, Trainwreck is a continuation of a comedy trend that began with Bridesmaids, realising that male characters did not hold a monopoly on emotional disaster zones. Female characters are just as likely to exercise poor judgment and make questionable personal decisions. If Apatow figured out how to keep the romantic comedy fresh by tweaking the mental age and emotional stability of the male lead, then his collaboration with Schumer does something similar by swapping the gender dynamics.

Hold me.

Hold me.

The basic character and emotional arcs have not changed. After all, the romantic comedy can really only have one of two outcomes; they live happily ever after, or they don’t. Trainwreck charts the same course as The 40-Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up, which basically followed the same arcs as When Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle. For all the novelty of swapping the gender roles in the Apatowian comedy, Trainwreck is not particularly subversive or deconstructive.

Rather, Trainwreck is a stellar execution of a very traditional form. It is not a comedy that defies conventions or upsets expectations; it hits virtually every major beat that story like this can be expected to hit. It benefits from a rather wonderful collaboration of a writer (and actress) with a sharp eye for millennial humour working alongside a director who understands the mechanics of the genre intuitively. Trainwreck is perhaps the best mainstream romantic comedy that Hollywood has produced in quite some time.

Everything is on track...

Everything is on track…

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