Renee Bennett is average.
She’s got an average job. An average apartment. Average friends.
And, of course, an average appearance: She avoids mirrors, layers on the spandex and buys the makeup that will—hopefully—make it all better.
Until, that is, her first day trying a trendy spinning class, where she falls off her exercise bike, hits her head and wakes up … not the same? Suddenly, Renee sees herself … differently. “Wait! That’s me?” she exclaims, looking in the mirror at the gym. “I’m beautiful!” Suddenly, Renee sees herself in a way she never has before: as a hot commodity. And she ain’t afraid to show it.
Now, every time she glimpses herself in the mirror, she’s captivated by her own image. And with her newfound confidence, she can get anything she wants.
Dream job working for makeup tycoon Lily LeClaire? Check.
Perfect guy? Check.
Hot new friends? Check.
Overall awesome life? It’s all hers.
But even though she seems to have it all now, Renee still lacks one important thing: the understanding that true beauty is more than skin deep and that what’s on the outside will only get you so far.
Most of us struggle with insecurities and low self-esteem at some point in our lives. And even though this movie is obviously aimed at a female audience, men aren’t immune from these struggles either. But I Feel Pretty aims a positive message at those issues: Each one of us, in our own unique form, is beautiful and special. In fact, it’s that sense of inner beauty and confidence that enables us to succeed in our personal and public lives, Renee shows us. We need not be ashamed of our appearance. And when we live fearlessly, it gives others the room to do the same.
At one point, Renee’s new boyfriend, Ethan, tells her that “lots of people miss the thing that makes them awesome.” He’s deeply attracted to the fact that Renee’s confidence enables her to take risks and not to worry about what anyone thinks of her. When Renee hits a crisis point later in the film, however, her good friends Viv and Jane have to remind her of this very lesson, helping Renee re-learn that her value isn’t in how she looks, but rather who she really is on the inside.
Renee also gradually realizes that two other beautiful women in the movie wrestle with deep insecurities themselves, a plot point that reinforces the idea that beauty alone isn’t enough to vanquish self-esteem issues.
Renee’s story also encourages us to chase our dreams, to live boldly. Is there a certain job you’ve never dreamed was possible to achieve? A certain someone you’d like to get to know? Go for it! Just know that your outer beauty is not what matters most, the film insists over and over again. What matters is having a deep, grounded sense of who we really are.
We see Renee watching a scene from the movie Big where a boy makes a magical wish, thus changing his age. Afterward, Renee throws a coin into a wishing well, hoping that it will change her appearance and make her beautiful. The film implies that what happens to her the next day when she hits her head is a result of that wish.
During a workout class the lead instructor asks the women if they’re looking for a spiritual change. She repeatedly says things like, “The miracle is already here.”
Someone says, “Let’s pray for a miracle,” and someone else says, “I thank God every day” for the way she looks. We hear the phrase, “So blessed.” Someone makes a profane reference to the Pope.
Many of the ways Renee expresses her confidence after hitting her head are positive. But the speed with which she initiates having sex with new beau, Ethan, isn’t one of them.
They have sex at the end of their first date, prompted by Renee. In that scene, we see her out-of-focus, unclothed image in the background. We also see Ethan removing his pants, movements (though without nudity) as they have sex and hear the couple talking about the experience afterward. Renee looks at her face in the mirror during the act, which Ethan says is a turn on for him. In another scene, Renee stands naked in a window in a dark room at night, though we only see her shadowy silhouette.
Renee enters a bikini contest at a bar. Other women there wear skimpy and revealing swimwear for the competition. Renee, who enters spontaneously and has no bathing suit handy, rolls up her shirt and unbuttons her shorts. She dances seductively, puts her finger in a man’s mouth and pours water over herself (in a white t-shirt, revealing a pink bra). This scene and others show cleavage, scantily clad backsides and clothes (or a lack thereof) that show off legs, stomachs and rear ends. Women also wear tight outfits and sports bras at a gym.
A woman’s pants rip, revealing her underwear. Renee’s shown taking her clothes off. (We see her looking at herself in a bra and a Spanx girdle in the mirror, and it’s clear she doesn’t like what she sees.) Men are seen shirtless and in their boxers. Renee pantomimes a sexual movement (jokingly) with one of her female friends. Renee, Viv and Jane join a dating service together; they complain about men who quickly make judgments about women on such services based on photos alone. They also compare their bodies to those of other women.
A man is known as something of a playboy for having flings with Brazilian models. Two older men are obviously partners in a scene that takes place in a grocery store. Various couples kiss.
We hear multiple jokes and gags related to sex and the female anatomy. We hear one other reference to the possibility of a same-sex relationship. Masturbation and prostitution are also alluded to. Someone quips that everyone has HPV. We hear a reference to the men’s magazine Maxim. Renee tells a coworker that she’s wearing bathing suit bottoms under her skirt because she’s out of clean underwear. A woman mentions that she was clueless that her ex-boyfriend had a girlfriend.
The violence here is of the comedic pratfall variety, most of it involving Renee. She hurts herself pretty badly three times: The first time, her exercise bike essentially collapses, and a concerned woman asks if her crotch is hurt. (There’s a discussion of whether she’s bleeding or not.) The second time, she falls, hits her head and has her hair caught and partially ripped out by another exercise bike. The third time, she slams into a glass door unexpectedly, knocks herself out and ends up with a bleeding head wound.
Elsewhere, a woman tries unsuccessfully, three times, to run through a plastic sheet that she expects to break. It doesn’t.
A man tells Ethan that he’s sure Renee could handle herself in a fight. Renee jokingly tells someone, “I want to punch you right in your dumb face.”
We hear about a dozen uses of the s-word. God’s name is misused about 35 times. “H—” is used about 10 times (including multiple uses in a song in the closing credits). Other vulgarities used once or twice each include “a–,” “b–ch,” “p-ss” and “crap.” Insults include “jerks,” “stupid,” “sluts,” “d–k,” “pr-ck” and “meaty patty” (a jab lobbed at an overweight man).
People drink beer, liquor and tequila at a bar and other locations. Renee drinks to excess and obvious drunkenness in a grocery store. A man briefly mentions his aunt who “drinks too much.” A nervous flier takes “some stuff” to help calm her anxiety. We hear a story about the unintended consequences of imbibing too much sangria.
Renee begins to treat her friends poorly as she gains more attention due to her newfound confidence, though she doesn’t really realize it. She also jokes about stealing discounted makeup from work. At times, she lies, too.
There’s a gross story about a dry cleaner who can’t get vomit stains out of a dress. A man sits on the toilet (we see the outside of his bare legs), asking a woman outside his stall to leave so she doesn’t hear “the splash.” He also grunts while using the restroom. Someone says that she has diarrhea. Renee picks her nose repeatedly when she thinks no one’s looking. Someone mentions picking a wedgie.
A man jokingly admits that he has stalker-like tendencies. One man clearly favors an attractive woman and is rude to those who aren’t as good-looking.
We’re trained from a young age to see a certain body type and physical appearance as more attractive than others. Culture and society have a lot to say about the way we look: You’re not thin enough, toned enough, polished enough. Your hair is too frizzy, too straight, too wavy. Your teeth aren’t white enough or straight enough. And, of course, this one: You’re not pretty enough.
Ironically, even star Amy Schumer herself received a lot of backlash when the trailer for I Feel Pretty dropped. People complained that she wasn’t ugly enough to play the role of someone who supposedly felt bad about her looks. What?
We can never win.
But what if we didn’t let society influence how we perceive ourselves? What if we were free to be the people God created us to be? To really love our physical appearance and our personalities and, in turn, love the God who gave it all to us?
Admittedly, I Feel Pretty never gets at God’s role in how we see ourselves. And though it’s not as raunchy as Amy Schumer’s R-rated comedies, there’s still plenty of content to deal with here. Sexual references are frequent. Language, toilet humor and alcohol consumption are issues, too.
But I Feel Pretty does have a soft side, which is saying a lot for a movie starring Amy Schumer. The movie, with all of its problems, promotes a healthy body image and teaches us that releasing ourselves from our own negative opinions, and those of others, will help us to love who we really are.
That’s a genuinely positive message—one that unfortunately still competes with enough crass content here to warrant caution before heading off to the multiplex for a girls’ night out.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).