VOD film review: Brittany Runs a Marathon
Bianca Garner | On 15, Nov 2019
Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Micah Stock, Patch Darragh, Alice Lee
Watch Brittany Runs a Marathon online in the UK: Amazon Prime
The term “feel-good film” is often thrown around these days without any real consideration of what truly classifies as feel-good. The definition is a movie that presents people and life in an optimistic, upbeat fashion and in such a way that the viewer is left feeling uplifted and happy. With this in mind, it is safe to assume that Paul Downs Colaizzo’s directorial debut, Brittany Runs a Marathon, ticks all the right boxes. By the end, you’ve been washed over by a strong feeling of optimism, so much so that you feel compelled to race out of the theatre and sign up for your nearest running group. There really hasn’t been another film released this year quite like Brittany Runs a Marathon, a film that leaves you buzzing with inspiration and positivity.
The film follows Brittany (Jillian Bell), a 28-year-old millennial trying to navigate her life in New York. She parties way too hard, lives like a slob, turns up late for work and has an extremely unhealthy lifestyle. During a doctor’s appointment (where she’s attempting to get Adderall to help fuel her party lifestyle), she is informed by Dr. Falloway (Patch Darragh) that she is obese and that she must lose weight to reverse the effects of being overweight. This is the wake-up call Brittany needed and she decides to do something about her situation.
Brittany joins a local running group, where she meets her seemingly stuck-up neighbour Catherine (Michaela Watkins) and fellow keen-to-get-fit runner Seth (Micah Stock), and the three of them strike up an unlikely friendship. They decide to set a goal of completing the New York Marathon together. As well as taking up running, Brittany also takes up a new pet-sitting job, where she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar) and there’s a romantic spark between them. However, with her change in attitude and obsession with running, Brittany soon finds herself pushing away her new friends.
The film’s titular character is partly based on Colaizzo’s own friend, who transformed her own life in a similar fashion. With this in mind, the end result of the film’s body positivity message feels somewhat stronger; this wistful Hollywood fantasy is rooted in reality. The character of Brittany is reminiscent of Amy Schumer’s character in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck, or Lena Dunham’s Hannah from HBO’s Girls. Like Hannah and Amy, Brittany is hardly what we would deem a ‘likeable’ female character, and it’s frankly a breath of fresh air in the much-stilted romantic comedy genre. Brittany is a character who is fully developed and complicated, like many of us attempting to find our way through the turmoils of adulthood; there’s something extremely relatable about Brittany that cuts deep.
Interwoven with the comedy and romantic subplot is a very serious commentary on fat-shaming and the effects of social media on our mental well-being and overall quality of life. At the start of the film, Brittany shares an apartment with her best friend Gretchen (Alice Lee), who seems to embody everything that Brittany aspires to be. As Brittany begins to get her life into action and essentially comes out of her shell, Gretchen responds negatively and essentially refuses to support her friend. Before Brittany completes her first run, she endures a panic attack but she fights through it. It’s a powerful moment and these serious and very emotional scenes make the film essential viewing.
Bell delivers an excellent performance and she could easily carry this film on her own, but she is supported by a strong ensemble in the form of Watkins, Stock and Ambudkar, who are all perfectly cast. The film’s runtime does drag at certain points, especially during the second act and, like all comedies, some of the jokes do not necessarily land as intended. Brittany Runs a Marathon is not a perfect film, but it’s impossible not to watch and leave without a smile on your face. One can only hope that we see more characters like Bell’s Brittany on the big screen, and it will be interesting to see what Bell and Paul Downs Colaizzo do next.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.