Brittany Runs a Marathon, 2019.
Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo
Starring Jillian Bell, Jennifer Dundas, Alice Lee, Michaela Watkins, Mikey Day, Lil Rel Howery, Kate Arrington, Beth Malone, Patch Darragh, Erica Herdnandez
When Brittany (Jillian Bell) decides that her party-hard, responsibility-free lifestyle is hurting those around her, as well as herself, she decides to go against her default setting by training for the New York City Marathon.
A classic underdog story, Brittany Runs a Marathon is part inspirational Rocky movie, part sign-of-the-times reflection on our need for societal conformity, all wrapped in a sweet, seen-it-all-before star-making vehicle for the fantastic Jillian Bell.
A tick-box list of the characteristics you’d expect from a couch-potato to pavement-pounder narrative, Brittany drinks excessively, behaves inappropriately at work, is rude to her neighbours, and in an attempt to fill the void of loneliness, will always return to the doucebag who propositioned her at the start of night for a quick-fix. Brittany is a mess, but she’s a relatable one. She’s at war with the way people expect her to be, and is anarchistic towards those parameters to the point of self-destruction.
For the purpose of the film Brittany’s plight might be heightened, but it perfectly captures how as a society we’re susceptible to personal criticism from the media and our peers: through television, ads on the side of a bus, and social media. Not only is Colaizzo’s film a rally-cry to dust off your runners, but a look at how we can all benefit from reconnecting with things other than a screen.
Such gifable sentimentality could have all seemed a bit navel gazy and preachy if it wasn’t for Bell, but having regularly stolen Workaholics from her noisy co-stars, and been the best thing about 22 Jump Street, Brittany Runs a Marathon proves the perfect showcase for both her comedic and dramatic chops. We know that Bell can do unhinged hedonism, we’ve seen it in Office Party and Rough Night, but here she’s given the chance to underpin the showreel gags with a weight of sadness, especially as Brittany begins to alienate those around her.
Any runner will tell you that a successful time is all about pacing, and that’s where BRAM really starts to cramp up. The first half is packed with some very funny sequences, as Brittany comes to terms with her health – there’s the classic visit to the doctors scene, the way she greets customers at the local theatre, or any of the training montages. However, the laughs gradually drop off, as Colaizzo’s film decides to shit focus to a love-interest that never feels genuine or necessary. Too much time is spent on the will-they-won’t-they-who-cares friendship with Mikey Day’s unintentionally annoying entrepreneur. The race takes a backseat to this, and as a result the film loses momentum, so-much-so that the pivotal Marathon feels rushed and inconsequential, stumbling over the finish line.
The truncated nature of the final act also undermines some of Brittany’s character decisions, with her sudden descent into being obnoxious and mean feeling completely unearned in the face of what we’ve come to know and love about her.
Still, they’re minor quibbles that can be run-off during the warm-down, largely thanks to the unavoidable feel-good factor that runs throughout the film, and Jillian Bell putting to use her formidable talents by embodying the kind of insecurities we all feel from time-to-time, as well as consistently making us giggle.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter @mainstreammatt