Amy Schumer's film 'I Feel Pretty' is surprisingly body-positive, say critics

Elise Solé
Despite initial backlash, Amy Schumer’s film “I Feel Pretty” has received a warm welcome. (Photo: Getty Images)
Despite initial backlash, Amy Schumer’s film “I Feel Pretty” has received a warm welcome. (Photo: Getty Images)

Amy Schumer‘s new film I Feel Pretty has been called “body-shaming” but the reviews have been surprisingly body-positive.

The film’s plot centers around a woman named Renee Barrett (played by Schumer) who is insecure about her appearance until she bumps her head in SoulCyle class and wakes up believing she’s gorgeous. The story, according to one of the directors Abby Kohn, “really sends home a message that believing in yourself is the only real change you need to make.”

But Twitter didn’t agree at first. In February, when the trailer for the film was released, people blasted the notion that Schumer — a white, blonde woman — could in any way be marginalized for her appearance and rejected the idea that brain damage is the only way women could love their bodies.

But then, Oprah spoke. “You know, you really walk out of that film and you feel what the definition of empower— what the embodiment of empowerment is. You feel good about you,” Oprah told Schumer during a sit-down interview that aired Friday on the OWN Network. “And you just can’t do better than that as an artist.”

Selena Gomez also supported the film, writing on Instagram, “This movie is so important to watch. I encourage all my ladies out there to go with your girls and watch! We used to live in a time where we would say “I can’t wait to BE older” to now being a generation that wants to LOOK like an adult without understanding the responsibility or who we truly are on the inside sometimes. I know I can relate for sure! GO WATCH!! It’s our modern day 13 going on 30!!!”

And it’s not just Hollywood that’s lavishing praise on the film. While there have certainly been negative reviews (it’s been called “plodding” and a “tone-deaf failure“), much of the feedback has been positive.

Per the Chicago Sun-Times: “Respectful suggestion: See a movie before tearing it apart. See where the journey takes you. In the case of “I Feel Pretty,” as corny and contrived as the final scenes are, you might actually applaud the message.”

And NPR noted of Schumer, “But to suggest she can’t know from this stuff because she doesn’t diverge from those norms enough in the Hollywood context is absurd. That’s why it’s smart that the film places Renee in a high-end Manhattan cosmetics company. There, she is side-eyed for her looks. If you think she couldn’t feel self-conscious in context, I invite you to roll up to any entertainment industry event in L.A. and look around for five minutes. Second of all, I suspect our actual fat actresses would appreciate not being asked to stand, definitionally, for unattractiveness.”

The narrative on Twitter also seemed to shift once viewers got a chance to see the film in its entirety.

To brush off Schumer’s experience because she doesn’t fit a specific definition of the word “plus-size” is to also dismiss the 91 percent of women with various body types unhappy with their appearance, according to one survey. What’s more, per Common Sense Media, more than half of girls ages 6 to 8 say they’re bigger than their ideal weight.

“I hope this movie reaches everyone,” Schumer said at the film’s Tuesday premiere, “but I personally made this for my 12-year-old self and I hope you guys could heal your 12-year-old selves tonight.”

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