Runner’s High: Brittany Runs a Marathon Wins Big with an Honest Lead Performance

click to enlarge AMAZON STUDIOS
Amazon Studios

New York City resident Brittany Forgler is unhappy. She’s unfulfilled at her job as a greeter at a small theater. She wastes time gawking at other people’s extravagant lives on social media. Her dating prospects are nonexistent. And based on her most recent visit to the doctor, which doesn’t yield the stimulants she was hoping for, she’s overweight.

“I feel like you totally missed the point of those Dove ads,” Brittany quips when her doctor explains why she’s on the wrong side of the Body Mass Index.

In Brittany Runs a Marathon, the “broke and fat” title character (Jillian Bell) attempts to reinvent herself by taking her physician’s advice and losing 45-55 pounds. Or, as Brittany puts it, “the weight of a Siberian Husky.” When she realizes she can’t afford a gym membership — “Is there a sliding scale for people in debt up to their tits?” — she decides the best and cheapest thing she can do is run the NYC sidewalks on her own.

What starts off as a slow and steady, one-block jog turns into Brittany joining a running group recommended by fellow tenant and now fellow runner Catherine (Michaela Watkins). Although self-conscious at first, she befriends Seth (Micah Stock), a gay dad whose leisurely pace matches well with hers. Soon, the trio of new running buddies are motivating one another, shedding pounds and even talking each other into training for the upcoming New York City Marathon in a little less than a year. The support is definitely something Brittany needs, especially with a petite roommate and best friend who tells her at one point in the film that just because she’s losing weight doesn’t mean she should throw away her “fat clothes.”

click to enlarge AMAZON STUDIOS
Amazon Studios

While the running aspect of Brittany Runs a Marathon is genuine and watching Bell actually lose 40 lbs. during the making of the movie is inspirational, first-time feature writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo, who wrote the script based on the true story of his friend Brittany O’Neill, includes a conventional rom-com storyline that causes the picture to pull up limp on occasion. There’s no good reason for Brittany to have a love interest aside from its convenience as a formula to create extra drama, grief and conflict for the two main participants. It also provides a familiar hurdle for Brittany to clear before she crosses the proverbial finish line.

That said, Bell dominates Brittany Runs a Marathon with an honest performance. Refreshingly, the film doesn’t depict her as a flawless character simply trying to get her life together. There are shades to Brittany, and some of them aren’t likeable. But like the saying goes, “The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes it.” Audiences will feel those endorphins kick in just in time to hail Brittany Runs a Marathon an undisputed winner.

Brittany Runs a Marathon is currently playing at the Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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