Jillian Bell

MOVIE REVIEW: Is “Brittany Runs a Marathon” Inspirational or Insipid?

I had overlapping screenings this week, so Kristin and Meggan became my pinch-hitters again. I appreciate their conflicting reviews of Brittany Runs a Marathon though, and find it interesting that society still sees a woman’s Years of Questionable Judgement as some kind of hole that we fall into. Is that phase of stumbling along (literally and figuratively) not just an essential part of growing up for many women AND men? Or is it just the excuse I’m still using twenty years later? Either way, here are Kristin and Meggan’s reviews of Brittany Runs a Marathon (Thanks Ladies!):

KRISTIN – Theory: I am too close to the subject matter in Brittany Runs a Marathon to fully enjoy it. Or…maybe I’m a narcissist? Up for debate. Either way, I went into the screening of this Sundance hit ready to BE ENCHANTED. BE INSPIRED. In the end? Yeah…it was…good? I think?

Full disclosure: I was a lost-ish single woman in my late 20s once. Taking cabs to bar parking lots on Tuesday mornings to retrieve my abandoned car in time to crawl into work. Vaguely remembering the nights before that SURELY weren’t worth the hangovers. Was it fun for a while? Yep. But, like our heroine, Brittany Forgler, I stepped back one day and realized that everyone else was moving on to something real, and I was still collecting the stamps from bars on my hand. The mental and physical toll was apparent. I was getting sadder and…larger. For ME, the answer was the KRPthe Kristin Revitalization Program (y’all I really was this cheesy…I named it.) I moved to San Jose for the summer for a work project, made a conscious effort to focus on what made me HAPPY (lots of hiking, sightseeing and connection with old friends), and it worked. I came back centered, happy, and ready for something real. Anybody wanna make a movie out of that? I’d accept the witty and nuanced Jillian Bell in my role, and I’ll need points on the back end.

So WHERE did Brittany Runs a Marathon miss me? I sometimes thought the filmmakers were just…telling it wrong? After a funny, light start, I started to get what I thought was a feel for Brittany. She was the hilarious, non-threatening schlubby friend. Y’all, a LOT of people want to be friends with the funny, harmless chub friend. Guys want to spill all of their problems to this girl, and other girls want her as their wing woman. This was my lane. So whyyyyyy is Brittany’s only friend her vapid, self-absorbed roommate (a girl deserving of nothing but a throat punch)? Equally off-putting (to me) was Brittany’s family situation. Her closest relatives were caricatures, and I did not feel the connection the movie clearly wanted me to feel between them. They could just as easily have met at the DMV. Even as Brittany takes up her cause (training for a marathon – duh) and starts to build new connections with running buddies, I just didn’t FEEL it. The girl who started the movie as a bit of a people-pleaser (the funny harmless chub friend who lives for the laugh, even at the doctor’s office), threw up her guard too many times and fell back on barbs that felt heavy on the mean and light on the funny. Lastly, there were the standard issues I have with any NYC-set movie. Seriously, how do these people afford to live for 10 minutes in this expensive city doing these ridiculous jobs? And what work is Brittany DOING, exactly?

I’d love to sit down and have a chat with the real Brittany, off the record. Brittany O’Neill, longtime friend and former roommate of writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo, really did set out to change her life by running the NYC Marathon, and this is (loosely) HER journey. Just because I was in my seat yelling quietly “BUT THAT’S NOT HOW THIS GOES!” doesn’t mean that this isn’t her story. It means that I wanted to see MY STORY, and Brittany Runs a Marathon wasn’t that.

And I will admit that I DID want to go running when the movie was over. Who doesn’t love a transformation angle?! But this morning when that early alarm went off marking the beginning of my new journey to middle-aged health? I hit snooze.

MEGGAN – I thought Brittany Runs a Marathon did a great job of showing the emotional pain of those 20-somethings who feel like everyone else’s life is going somewhere and they are stuck. (It’s definitely how I felt throughout my 20s.) I was rooting for Brittany throughout the movie, even when she made some really bad choices (and there were plenty of them because…well, 20-somethings). There were a few parts that felt a little cliche and predictable but I still laughed and cried in equal parts. The supporting cast overall was likable (Mikaela Watkins was my favorite) and Alice Lee gets two thumbs up for her performance as Brittany’s shallow, mean-spirited, self absorbed “friend” Gretchen. We both wanted to punch her.

It can be really tricky to address body image and self-esteem on film, especially when the goal is to entertain rather than inform. Brittany takes center stage, of course, but as Brittany Runs a Marathon progresses, you realize the supporting characters are also struggling with these issues in their own way. While I don’t know that this movie captured the message perfectly, I think it did do a good job of showing that physical and emotional health go hand in hand, and the road to finding that balance isn’t a straight or short one for any of us.
Brittany Runs a Marathon is rated R and opens in select theaters 9/6.

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