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Review: Brittany Runs a Marathon (Sundance)

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Sundance)
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PLOT: Brittany (Jillian Bell) decides to change her life by losing weight and training for the New York City Marathon.

REVIEW: BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON has an admittedly simple premise. So simple, in fact, that I couldn’t come up with a second sentence to add to the plot description without giving away the film, as what’s promised to you in the title is what you get – Brittany does indeed run a marathon. So, what about it made Amazon pick it up for $14 million?

Here’s the thing – for anyone who’s ever struggled with body image issues this will hit close to home. And really, nowadays, who hasn’t? It’s about as universal a story as I saw at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and the authenticity writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo and star Jillian Bell bring to this is truly commendable, especially given the fact that they do it all though a relatively lightweight, crowd-pleasing comedy format. It walks a tightrope relatively few films have managed to lately and serves as a next-level star vehicle for Bell, who’s been on the verge of breaking out ever since stealing scenes in 22 JUMP STREET.

Brittany could have been a cookie cutter, rom-com style heroine, with the audience cheering her on to her eventual victory, completely with a tacked-on romance with a leading man, but it never quite happens that way here. Rather, Bell’s made her a real person, with both her good points and bad. She’s funny and charming, so much so that her friends love having her around as “the funny one” while she’s also able to skate by at her menial job by cracking wise with the boss, but it’s a mask. It takes a doctor who’s adverse to her charm to wake her up to the fact that her health is poor and some changes need to be made – and so begins her journey.

If you’ve ever lost a significant amount of weight, you’ll relate. We’re with Brittany through it all – including the frustration of needing to radically change your diet, and the exhilaration of initial weight loss, which dissipates once the pounds stop falling off so easily. Another thing the film tackles that others don’t is that not everyone will be on-board for your weight-loss – some may in fact resent you for it and the resentment will sometimes come from those who are already thin, which happens here in achingly real fashion.

Again though, what makes the film so good is that Bell, as Brittany, dares to make you dislike her at times. Once especially rough-going scene has her dress-down an overweight acquaintance in a way that’s unforgivably cruel - a bold move as with anyone else but Bell in the part audiences would have checked-out. This commitment to some degree of realism extends to the obligatory romantic subplot. Utkarsh Ambudkar’s house-sitter is far from cookie-cutter, having issues of his own, and their courtship is never cutesy. The relationship evolves over the course of the film just like in – ya know – life. Even stock characters, like the supportive neighbor and gay best friend are given some shading. They feel like they exist outside of Brittany’s orbit.

Suffice to say, BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON is a winner, although it remains to be seen whether or not audiences will go for a broad, mainstream comedy that dares to be different, injecting just the right amount of spice into a story that could have been sugary sweet. If the gods of Sundance (and Amazon) are just, the acquisition and eventual release will turn Bell into a force to be reckoned with, and this is certainly one to keep an eye out for.

Source: JoBlo.com

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