Brittany Runs a Marathon

A few months ago, a 66-year-old woman died and there was a rather long obituary on her in the paper. I didn’t recognize the name, but remembered her story once I started reading. I was 11-years-old in 1980 when she made the news for cheating in the Boston Marathon. The year before, it was discovered, she cheated in the New York City marathon (people had seen her on the subway to Central Park). In the Boston Marathon, she had a shirt with no sweat on it. People noticed when she raised her arms in victory, her arm pits were dry.

Last month, on the 4th of July, a 70-year-old doctor in L.A. killed himself, after it was discovered he was cheating in marathons while breaking records for his age group.

In real life, comedic actress Jillian Bell did the opposite of cheating. Well, I’m not sure if she actually ran a marathon, but she lost 40 pounds for this role in a movie whose title…is one major spoiler alert. Yet despite its predictability, and the fact that you know the heavy-set sad sack that starts the movie, is probably going to slim down and end up running a marathon…that doesn’t make the journey any less fun. I laughed, I cried, and she ran her way right into my heart.

Hopefully this breakout performance leads to Bell getting more starring roles, and not just playing the goofy sidekick. 

The film starts with Bell doing what she does best — being funny. She’s working the box office of a small theatre company selling tickets. She would rather be writing commercial jingles.

She has fun clubbing and partying with her cute roommate (Alice Lee), then goes to the doctor to score some Adderall. The doctor, sensing she just wants to party and doesn’t need it for therapeutic reasons, suggests that she lose 50 pounds. The repartee between them is not only humorous, but it seems like a real conversation a doctor would have. Since the movie trailer shows Brittany saying he wants her to lose the equivalent of a medium sized Husky, and a few of the other funny scenes, you worry those might be the best part. They aren’t. Another fear I had is that this would just be a series of jokes aimed at a fat woman trying to get into shape. It wasn’t that, either. There are many, many funny scenes and she’s not usually the butt of the jokes. 

When Brittany makes snide comments about her neighbor Catherine (the always welcome Michaela Watkins, her co-star in Sword of Trust)…you think she’s going to be the arch rival. Instead, they become running buddies. She also becomes besties with Seth (Michah Stock), a gay father who is tired of running out of breath when he’s playing with his son.

She also starts a dog sitting job, where she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar of Pitch Perfect), who is lazy, and just uses the job at the house to crash there. His character is annoying at first, but he ends up being smart and funny (he looks like Aziz Ansari and talks like David Spade). 

The trailers show him helping her with a dating profile, so it’s a safe assumption she’s going to start dating and find Mr. Right.

It was refreshing that this movie didn’t make Brittany a character that lost a lot of weight and everything is hunky-dory. On one hand, it’s good that she starts standing up for herself (and telling off her selfish roommate). Yet the problem is she starts getting rather mean. They should’ve scaled that back a bit, because she becomes a bit of a pill. In fact, there’s one scene (thankfully, it’s the only scene in the movie) that just doesn’t work. She confronts another woman at a party and is so rude, it just doesn’t seem believable. Or, it makes her such a horrible character that you don’t even care if she reaches her goals. The shame of it is, that scene would’ve been so powerful if written properly.

This was written and directed by playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo, and he does a great job. It helps that he has such a solid, if largely unknown, cast. And her brother-in-law is played Lil Rel Howery, in a role that is surprisingly a bit more serious than you’d expect from the guy that always cracks us up on screen (Good Boys, Get Out, Bird Box, Uncle Drew, Tag). 

Of course, like all movies these days, it has a barfing scene (which does seem like something you should have when a story involves people clubbing and training for a marathon).

The first half of the movie is better than the second half, but my wife and I both ended up liking it a lot. It’s also the perfect date movie, because men and women will love it. Runners and non-runners alike.

4 stars out of 5.

 

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