When the trailer for Amy Schumer’s new film I Feel Pretty came out, there was quite a backlash.
It stars the comedian as Renee Bennett, a woman who bangs her head during a cycling class and suddenly sees herself as being stunningly beautiful.
People were quick to criticise it for focusing on a woman’s size, as well as for the notion that self-confidence was something so unobtainable it only came about through a bump to the head.
And there was anger too that Schumer was being made out to be apparently “ugly”.
Schumer has responded, saying she just wants people to make up their minds after seeing the full feature, adding: “I think that we were real careful with staying on message, which was that it’s not about how anybody else sees you. It’s about how you see yourself and who you are.”
She says she’s been left feeling the most confident she ever has.
But now the film has actually been released, how are the critics feeling?
It’s perhaps not a good start that, at the time of writing, I Feel Pretty is currently ranked at being only 34% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Sheri Linden, in The Hollywood Reporter, writes that she felt “underwhelmed” by a film with a “muddled manifesto” that “isn’t as gutsy as it wants to be”.
“The story of a woman who’s knocked unconscious and wakes believing that she’s supermodel material, the film veers between inspired and strained and finally settles into the realm of self-improvement pop psychology,” she says.
“The bracing promise of the setup steadily loses fizz,” adds Linden.
It fares worse in The Washington Reporter, with Michael O’Sullivan awarding it a solitary star.
“Body shaming is no longer cool or funny,” he argues. One scene that’s meant to provoke “gales of laughter” – when Renee enters a bikini competition – “delivers mostly groans instead”.
“Though I Feel Pretty is intended to deliver a message of empowerment – women should feel good about themselves without struggling to meet unreasonable standards of beauty – it ends up making the exact opposite point,” he writes. “If you don’t look like Emily Ratajkowski, the film says, a rail-thin model and actress who has a small role, you’re unworthy of attention and love.”
Rolling Stone says Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein – the writing duo behind He’s Just Not That Into You and Never Been Kissed – make a “wobbly directorial debut” full of mixed messages.
Peter Travers says it may be “harmless fluff”, but adds: “Is it really OK to get off making plus-size jokes just because you tack on a moralising ending that teaches a lesson about body positivity? Can you have it both ways?”
In The Guardian, Benjamin Lee praises Schumer, but says even she can’t save a “subpar script”.
He writes that “one of the bigger problems with I Feel Pretty is the vagueness of the magical element of the plot” – with Renee apparently learning to love herself as she really looks, yet re-introducing herself to her best friends because she thinks they won’t recognise her in her “altered” state.
It could also be funnier, he notes, adding: “It has the feel of a rough draft, as if it’s waiting for a script doctor to add in the funny bits.”
Variety is saddened by the fact that Schumer, who perhaps ironically works in the make-up industry, is seen as someone who’s in need of a makeover.
“Contemporary audiences have been so corrupted by heavily airbrushed magazine spreads, surgically enhanced supermodels, and unrealistically proportioned porn stars that they’ll readily accept Schumer as a dowdy fixer-upper,” writes Peter Debruge.
“As in Trainwreck (which Schumer wrote), the movie runs out of steam in its final third, attempting to perfect – but instead merely belabouring – the genre’s message-delivery denouement,” he adds.
Pete Hammond, in Variety, is among those bemoaning the film’s PG-13 rating that constrains the bawdiness of some of Schumer’s previous work.
He adds: “There is nothing terribly fresh about this makeover tale which has been told since Cinderella met that Fairy Godmother, but the twist is the only real makeover on display here is simply attitude, not looks.”
Kimber Myers, in Playlist, applauds Michelle Williams for her performance, the Oscar nominee best known for her straight roles in gritty dramas.
“While Schumer shows dramatic chops, by contrast, Williams is the film’s comedic hero,” she writes. “Normally known for her dramatic skill, the four-time Oscar nominee is hilarious here as Avery LeClaire, the heiress to the cosmetics kingdom, whose high-pitched voice keeps her from commanding a room.”
But she concludes that while I Feel Pretty is beautiful on the inside, full of good intentions – it looks a “hot mess” on the outside.
I Feel Pretty opens in the US on 20 April and in the UK on 4 May