Let’s go running.
Brittany Runs a Marathon follows the titular Brittany (Jillian Bell) who struggles with her weight and aimless existence. Seemingly out of nowhere, she decides to change her life and begins to better herself with the ultimate goal of running the New York City Marathon about a year later.
The movie promised to be a funny and uplifting film about overcoming obstacles, and sometimes it does, but mostly it falls flat on its face.
Our heroine isn’t likable. I was surprised to see that this film is based on a true story as it plays more like what a bunch of people think a fat person would act like. A lot of overweight people compensate by being fun, but Brittany goes beyond being humorous and seems to be more of a disaster of a human being. With no life goals, drug and drinking problems, and crappy friends it really seems like the weight is the smallest of the issues.
Further, Brittany is frequently cruel to her oddly supportive neighbor Shannon (Jennifer Dundas). The reasoning behind why Brittany is so toxic to everyone (aside from those who are actually bad for her) isn’t clear. We get numerous scenes of her not wanting to be pitied, but then acts in a pitiable way, and refuses help—until she doesn’t.
The film also draws an odd line in the sand proclaiming that healthy people are also morally superior to people who aren’t, which I can’t imagine is the message they want. However, we are sure to have a newly thin Brittany fat shame her sister’s friend for no reason, so maybe this is the message they want.
We have complicated issues distilled into almost dangerous simplicity. People who have drinking problems aren’t evil, and folks who run aren’t all saints, but the film will make you think this is the way the world works. Additionally, we don’t get much of Brittany struggling with her weight. We have a lot of dialogue about it, but not much in regard to struggling with food addiction or anything else. The way it is presented here it seems all one needs is a bit of willpower and they can overcome not only food addiction, but drugs and alcohol as well. I guess the takeaway is that unhealthy people are only unhealthy because they are lazy.
Although not stated directly, issues of depression seem to be curable with a morning run, which is a dangerous understatement here.
My problem with these “overcoming dramedies” (for lack of a better term) is that they wash away anything that complicates the issues at hand. Instead of being inspiring I found the whole thing to be cynical towards reality than anything else.
A lot of people liked it, which is fine, but I certainly did it. I think this sort of cinema is designed to force us to feel a little empathy, but not a whole lot because the character overcomes it at the end, so fuck being empathetic, right?
I suppose I should mention the technical aspects. The film is competently made for the most part. Handheld scenes can sometimes work, but here they are sometimes distracting. An overbearing soundtrack will try to guide you by doing the emotional heavy lifting that the characters can’t. Overall, it was a finely made film until the final act when the director decided to do a bunch of “kewl” camera crap and added filters and color isolation not done anywhere else. It would have been better to simply leave these aspects out.
I had no investment in any of the characters. Folks who squat in someone’s house and trash it while being paid to watch after it aren’t worth rooting for. The side characters are more interesting, but often not more likable. I found the whole thing about as inspiring as a shallow puddle.
It is streaming on Amazon (who produced it), so if you want a paper-thin feel good it might be worth it. I don’t recommend it though.