Brittany is not happy. Living in a small New York flat with a vapid roommate, Brittany hides from her insecurities and low self esteem by eating, drinking and being the funniest girl in the room.
After watching friends and family move forward in life while she remains sedentary, she decides to start exercising – that is, she decides to begin running.
As Brittany slowly finds her groove, she sets a goal of running the New York Marathon, but fixing her health is simply the first step in repairing a person who has slowly isolated herself.
“Brittany Runs A Marathon” may not seem all that funny from the synopsis above, but it is actually a funny and heartwarming film. What distinguishes this from other similar films is the grounding of this story in reality.
Although Brittany is very funny, she is sad, lonely, scared and defensive – she is a broken woman. She pushes away everyone who tries to get close.
As she commits to running a marathon, her running mates Seth (Micah Stock) and Catherine (Michaela Watkins) encourage her and support her commitment, yet when they try to help her gain entry into the marathon, she responds with a stern rebuff. She also meets man-child Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a man who has convinced himself of his own self-worth – but few others.
This funny and emotional film will have you laughing out loud for the first half. As the more serious side of the narrative takes over, we leave the humor behind to be replaced with angst.
Writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo balances real life dramas such as poverty, divorce, drug addiction and self-hate with wry humor as he looks at the absurdity of life’s struggles. Colaizzo refuses to over-dramatize the downs in the film. As Catherine, Seth and Brittany reveal their own struggles, the deadline of a looming marathon both fuels the story forward and smooths the potential edges that would weigh it down. The result is a comedy that morphs into a feel good story of hope and resolution.
Brittany’s friends and family not only support her through thick and thin, they also make this film worth watching. Everyone around her is struggling with their own “marathon” in life – whether it be raising children, drug addiction or marriage and relationships each one of us undertakes our own lengthy commitment to something. This entertaining film shows us that we all need love and support along the way or our race will be grueling.
In addition, Colaizzo refuses to make this film about a fat girl losing weight in order to be accepted. He creates a funny and sad tale about a person learning to recognize and deal with the demons that have caused her to use food as a shield. By the end of the film, Brittany hasn’t solved all of her problems, she is simply back on track and working every day to be a better person.
“Brittany Runs A Marathon” is a cute, curt, endearing and honest film that will find the warm smiles of satisfaction within each of us.
This really happened, so one must give the real Brittany some respect for overcoming what she did and tackling that grueling 26-mile trek through the five boroughs in the New York City Marathon.
First-time writer-director Paul Down Colaizzo is confident with his material and his ace cast, for he loosely based the movie on his real-life friend who did run the marathon. And overcame a lot of obstacles.
Comic actress, Jillian Bell embodies the unlikeable Brittany in a very real way. Bell, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer, had a breakout role in “22 Jump Street” and has gone on to be an ensemble player in both high and low-profile comedies.
She’s ready for her close-up here. Bell is convincing as this aimless slacker who slowly turns her life around. She brings vulnerability to the “funny fat sidekick” persona her character has become.
She is surrounded by strong talent, including Michaela Watkins as her runner neighbor, Micah Stock as a gay dad in training and Utharsh Ambudkar as a friend/roommate.
The movie may sound like an eat-your-vegetables type of self-improvement plot, and naturally, getting healthy is an inspiring message. But it’s more than that.
Nor is it fun for the whole family. This is very much a Millennials movie, and while earnest, one must warm up to Brittany by the time she achieves her triumph, for she has done her darndest to alienate us.
To its credit, the movie doesn’t tie up everything neatly with a bow. Very much like life, and this is just the middle.
And like Brittany’s sheer will, Bell grows on us.
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” is an Amazon Studios release, currently at movie theaters, and will be available on the streaming service Sept. 23.