At a time when pop culture is expected to be politically sensitive, we have one extremely offensive thing that seems difficult to get rid of: the fat suit. Though there have always been overweight characters played by overweight actors, in many cases, fat characters in film have been played by average built actors donning extra padding. Stars like Robert de Niro and Christian Bale have also gone to extreme method acting limits to naturally gain and lose weight for roles, something that comedic actress Jillian Bell takes a stab at it in Paul Downs Colaizzo’s new film, “Brittany Runs a Marathon.”
Brittany Forgler (Bell) is 28 years old in modern day New York City. She works at a playhouse and spends more of her free time intoxicated than otherwise. After a rough night out with friends, she goes to the doctor because she’s not feeling well, only for him to tell her that her primary problem is she’s out of shape, on the verge of being overweight, and needs to stop eating junk food and getting wasted every week. Brittany tosses the advice aside until it hits her that this new health goal could work as both physical motivation and personal motivation to surround herself with more positive influences. Not only does she take up jogging – she makes the New York City Marathon her final goal.
Michaela Watkins and Micah Stock play Brittany’s new jogging buddies, and Utkarsh Ambudkar co-stars as her unconventional love interest. Like Brittany, Bell reportedly lost 40 pounds throughout filming. If you watch the movie, both the actress and character’s progress is impressive. Most films about overweight characters center around the protagonist’s weight, but “Brittany Runs a Marathon” does a decent job at portraying an overweight person as having the same issues as in-shape people do. Bell, who has unfairly spent most of her career being perceived as a poor man’s Amy Schumer or Lena Dunham, does a fine job with the drama and comic relief that is required of the film’s lead. “Brittany” is also the film-making debut for Colaizzo, who experiments outside of his usual playwright role and proves he has potential for creating future features.
If there’s one thing that I might have done differently in the movie, it’s the portrayal of Brittany’s friendship with her pretty roommate, Gretchen (Alice Lee). The final resolution between the two feels a bit lazy and much like an afterthought. Aside from that, though, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” is probably the best romcom/light comedy since “Bridget Jones’ Diary” (2001) about an average looking, out-of-shape woman.