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Brittany Runs a Marathon review - believable body positive parable | reviews, news & interviews

Brittany Runs a Marathon review - believable body positive parable

Brittany Runs a Marathon review - believable body positive parable

Jogging redemption hits bumps in the road in a subtle semi-romcom

Run away?: Brittany (Jillian Bell) ponders her options

Brittany (Jillian Bell) is the unhappily overweight life of the party, numbing her lonely life with booze and acerbic one-liners as she nears 30.

Bad medical news makes her obsessively turn to running, eventually entering the New York marathon, with side-effects include an ambiguous romance with slobby fellow house-sitter Jern (Utkarsh Amdudkar).

Playwright Paul Downs Callaizzo’s film debut follows in the path of countless more obvious romcoms and ugly duckling tales in showing her redemption, while artfully complicating their clichés. Based loosely on his friend Brittany O’Neill’s jogging epiphany, he’s retained real life nuance in his body image parable. 

Brittany (Jillian Bell) and Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar) in Brittany Runs a MarathonBell and Ambudkar (pictured above) are equally offbeat leads, as Brittany’s fragile, defensive front meets his sarcastic, soft-hearted immaturity. Brittany’s smile is at an unconvinced angle, her eyes watchful and only half-warm, her wit getting in the first blow. As intolerant of bullshit as she is tolerant of alcohol, her dry, ready humour attracts company, but low self-esteem starting in the mirror keeps her lonely. Jern’s incontinent verbiage is by contrast little more than bullshit at times, favouring quantity over quality of argument, and inept at a simple pet-sitting gig he’s casually redefined as house-squatting. The almost liquid lack of edge behind his cocky veneer fits Brittany’s “man-child” description, but his indomitable optimism sails on.

Brittany’s averagely jumbled social life also includes a reluctant running trio with upbeat, gay Seth (Micah Stock) and wealthy, divorcing ex-drug addict Catherine (Michaela Watkins, pictured below right with Bell and Stock), flatmate and party pal Gretchen (Alice Lee), and her sister and father-figure brother-in-law in Philadelphia. Watkins makes Catherine another particular character, strained but determined in her niceness, a lean aesthete’s personality reflected in athletic running. There are barbs and elements of performance to their conversation which are very New York, like their desire for self-improvement.

Brittany (Jillian Bell), Seth (Micah Stock) and Catherine (Michaela Watkins) in Brittant Runs a MarathonBrittany’s physical makeover meanwhile goes just far enough to improve her social media profile (the nocturnal clicks as she fine-tunes her photograph in bed are the film’s saddest sound). Painful scenes of ongoing self-loathing surprisingly interrupt the upward curve to marathon glory. Taking sympathy for pity when her training is torpedoed by injury, she turns her quick wit on her new friends rather than risk letting them in, poisoning their good will with bile. Her drunken abuse of an overweight guest at a family party is a scene which would horrify bigger studio productions. Though Callaizzo has talked of his film in sunnily therapeutic, very American terms, his depiction of the disease requiring therapy is acute. Running adjusts Brittany’s weight and looks, but distracts from less tractable internal wounds. They trash the likeable female lead template, and keep the easy prospect of either a jogger’s Rocky or a makeover fairy tale at bay.  

The gently funny interactions of a cast of awkward characters remain winningly truthful throughout. The marathon itself plays a tellingly small role, though it’s where Calliazzo is most conventional. Brittany’s happy ending lies elsewhere.


Running adjusts Brittany’s weight and looks, but distracts from less tractable internal wounds


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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