Twenty eight year old Brittany Forgler’s (Jillian Bell) unhealthy lifestyle is catching up on her. She drinks and smokes regularly, sleeps long hours, and doesn’t eat well or exercise. Her job as a greeter at an off-Broadway theatre is dead-end, though it covers the rent of her New York City flat. Brittany is advised by her doctor to get healthy and lose weight or she could face long-term health problems. With the gym being too expensive to join, she decides to start running. Eventually, she gains the confidence to set herself the ultimate goal – to run the New York City Marathon.
‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’ could very well be the feel-good movie of the year. It’s such a human and touching story which treats its subject with deep compassion and delivers a take-home message about feeling good within and about yourself that never feels trite as it emphasises goal setting and reaching out to others. At the heart of its story is Jillian Bell’s performance, a comedic actress best-known for playing zany supporting roles in the likes of ‘22 Jump Street’, ‘Office Christmas Party’ and ‘Rough Night’. As the lead, she’s a joy to watch and you can’t help rooting for her. Bell is not only incredibly funny in the role, she also portrays Brittany’s insecurity and inability to let anyone help her in a sympathetic (even when mildly infuriating) way.
Aside from Brittany, the film is populated by several likeable characters who develop friendships with Brittany and become crucial to her support system. Michaela Watkins and Micah Stock are just lovely as Brittany’s running buddies while Utkarsh Ambudkar (‘Pitch Perfect’) is an excellent fit as love interest Jern. Another significant character in the film is Brittany’s best friend and roommate Gretchen, played by Alice Lee, who Brittany gradually comes to realise isn’t really her friend. Gretchen keeps taking Brittany out on the town as she tries to stay healthy and her obsession with social media is detrimental to Brittany’s self-worth. Gretchen is too self-absorbed to recognise her friend’s achievements and it’s sad to say, she represents someone every woman has likely met in her life. Still, ‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’ is about triumphing over adversity, and while the confrontation between Gretchen and Brittany marks a major turning point of the film, later on, there’s a dinner scene in which the latter goes on a devastating rant that you know comes from a place of pain but is as repulsive as it is heart-breaking. We see that everyone in the world writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo has written is facing their demons. It’s a film that makes you look at your own life which is another testament to its strength.
If you’re looking for a laugh-out-loud funny, heart-warming and inspiring movie to check out, ‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’ hits the target. Some pacing issues aside (particularly at the start and end of the film), it’s a movie everyone should watch and is one of the top dramedies of 2019.