Jillian Bell has been growing in popularity as a comedian over the past couple of years, with roles in films such as “22 Jump Street,” “Rough Night” and “Office Christmas Party.” Despite this, I've never been a big fan of hers. I don’t deny that she’s talented, but for whatever reason, she just never clicked for me. None of her performances necessarily got me excited to see what she would do next.
That is, until I saw “Brittany Runs a Marathon.”
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” is an indie-comedy that tells the true story of Brittany Forgler, a woman in her late-20s living in New York City. When the film begins, Forgler isn’t happy with her life. She spends most of her time either partying or working her dead-end job at an off-Broadway theater. When her doctor informs her that she’s unhealthily overweight, Forgler reluctantly decides to start running. This small decision then causes an avalanche of changes in her life, putting her on a path toward being genuinely happy with who she is.
I've been curious about this film ever since Amazon Studios purchased its distribution rights at Sundance at the beginning of the year. But I still wasn't convinced Bell could carry a film.
However, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” is hilarious.
There are non-stop laughs pretty much from beginning to end in this movie — most of which stem naturally from the film’s characters and plot. It never pokes fun at its main character or her goals, but it does highlight many different humorous situations that result from them. One such situation occurs when Forgler and her friend Seth are on a morning run. They are both exhausted and running slow enough that a group of children casually walks past them, to which Forgler remarks “We’re going backwards!”
Bell’s performance as Forgler is what really holds the film together.
Her comedic timing is excellent, and she is able to pull off the sassiness of her character in spades. Forgler often makes funny-but-rude sarcastic remarks to the people around her. The jokes Forgler makes serve both to develop her as a character and to inject the film with a light-hearted sense of humor that will keep the audience wanting more. Bell is able to portray this character as a three-dimensional person who isn’t always what you might think. She’s mean and even unlikable at times, yet she can also be surprisingly caring and supportive. Bell handles both sides of the character wonderfully. She’s hilarious when she needs to be, but she also delivers an excellent emotional performance when the character is down on her luck.
What surprised me the most about this film was how legitimately motivating it was.
In "Brittany Runs a Marathon," the audience sees this character get her life in order and become the person she wants to be. She’s a relatable character in many ways, which allows viewers to put themselves in her situation. Seeing her set goals and actually achieve them was incredibly satisfying to watch. I certainly couldn’t run a marathon, but watching her do it almost made me want to give it a shot. That’s not to say the film makes it look easy; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. This film goes out of its way to show how difficult Forgler’s goals are, but it also shows how hard she works to achieve them.
On its surface, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” might look like it’s just about somebody getting in shape because their doctor told them to. However, it goes beyond that. She’s not just working on her physical health, but also on her mental health. Forgler struggles with letting people in. She often pushes away those trying to help her. As the film goes on, she grows as a character, eventually realizing that it’s not a bad thing to ask for help.
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” was a great feel-good movie that I recommend to anyone. It’s funny, motivational and has a lot of heart. Bell shines in the lead role, delivering on both the humorous and serious sides of her character.
I may not have been a fan of Bell before, but now I can honestly say that I’m excited to see what she does next.