Brittany (Jillian Bell) is far from living her “best life”. Overweight, constantly partying, broke, and with an unsatisfying love life, the 28 year old finds a lot that’s wrong in her life. When she visits a doctor, in an attempt to score some Adderol, his negative and frank assessment of her health gives her pause. Too poor to afford a gym, she tries running, and soon sets herself the ambitious task of participating in the New York City Marathon as motivation.
Based on a true story, Brittany Runs A Marathon, manages to dive into that nexus point of self worth, body image, and societal pressures, exploring it in a safe and enjoyable way. Here it lands a few salient points and some insightful revelations, thanks to razor sharp dialogue and an on point performance by Jillian Bell engaging with the subject matter for all its worth. It results in a film that will be both a crowd pleaser, and carry a message that many members of the audience will relate to personally.
Paul Downs Colaizzo debut film could easily seem trite in other hands, as its ultimately feel good message of self improvement and engagement under your own terms, is a fairly tailored and simple message filtered through the lens of a generation that rightly questions the societal values expressed by a traditional happy ending. Brittany Runs A Marathon doesn’t feel like a “movie of the week”, but someone genuinely trying to get their shit together, not overcoming some great hardship, but rather the day to day grind that is life that sometimes seems like an insurmountable challenge in its own right. It’s not a straight ascent either. As a character Brittany fails as much as she succeeds. She can be petty, selfish and destructive, but she can also be inspirational. Like the race itself, sometimes it’s all about continuing to place one foot in front of the other, and to keep on going.
Bell slays in this regard, giving a ranged performance that nails both the comedic elements and the pathos. Devastating with some of the one liners, she’s also at home making the audience feel for her as she shamefully scoffs down a cheeseburger after a bad day. There’s an obvious wellspring of charisma there, and one through which Bell makes the audience her own by the end of the film.
That’s not to say that Brittany Runs A Marathon runs the perfect line. The film has some obvious pacing issues, flagging in sections, with certain plot threads either not pay off significantly, or disappearing entirely – but on the whole it runs a good race.
More than just a fun run, Brittany Runs a Marathon treads on some significant territory, and says some worthwhile things about our obsession with image, and its ties to self worth.