Brittany Runs A Marathon felt like it was being promoted everywhere if you ever bothered with running websites or apps. Little clips of Jillian Bell turning from party girl to runner in the short clips or blurbs here and there in the year of 2019.
Or that was solely me when I started my running journey. Fear not, my running is still uninspirational, but I will be comparing notes.
Jillian Bell is mainly known for her roles in Workhalics, 22 Jump Street, and in minor roles such as in The Master. Bell has prevoiously been a writer for Saturday Night Live and has done a lot of voice work.
She’s the lead in this movie, and she is believable in portraying a twenty-something living in New York and feeling as if she’s failing. This movie has a lot of heart, but it is hard for me to say if it’s genuinely any good. There’s something a little dry in this film. Its genre is a comedy-drama, but it hits more on the drama side, but barely. It touches the edges yet somehow very safe.
It feels like a straight to DVD/streaming movie, and this is not for lack of a good story. Brittney goes to a doctor to get some Ritalin because she feels she has problems focusing. Her doctor is reluctant to give it to her and mentions that maybe her lack of focus was the poor quality of sleep and that losing some weight might help. Brittney becomes defensive at the idea but tries to follow her doctor’s recommendation. She thinks about joining a gym but quickly dodges that when she learns it’ll cost over a hundred dollars and opts for the cheap route on running outside.
The shot of Brittany standing in front of her apartment building to try and make herself leave the apartment is realistic. She steps outside into the busy city of New York to see her reflection warped on the side of a food stand, and she bolts right back inside where it’s safe. She feels too fat even to try to run. She makes a second attempt the next day with the promise of going just one block. She’s scared to try. She’s scared to fail.
In the film, we have Catherine (Michaela Watkins), who owns the building Brittany and her roommate Gretchen live in. They have a tense relationship. Brittany peers down, seeing Catherine going for a run, and curses at her. Part jealousy and part frustration. Catherine tries to encourage Brittany, but she rejects it.
When joining a running group, she meets Seth (Micah Stock); they’re both going at an idle speed. Both lament the frustrations of running. Learning to run honestly sucks. It’s personal torture at times. I can tell you this because I used to do it. Brittany assumes Seth is trying to cheer her on, only to realize he’s trying to make himself do it. They bond over the attempt to do something neither of them feels good at. Catherine joins them with the excuse that the faster runners aren’t as fun and are very competitive.
During the film, Brittany is slowly gathering her life together and losing weight as she does. She finds another job. She starts to put value into herself. I was first worried this would become a story of a woman losing weight, finally becoming happy and prosperous. Thankfully it isn’t. This could’ve quickly become a movie Weight Watchers, or Jenny Craig would’ve promoted gleefully. Even a few scenes of her having body dysmorphia seem to view herself as the fat girl stuck now in a thinner body. It’s something nobody mentions. You lose weight and find yourself, right? Not exactly.
Instead, Brittany has a hard time accepting help from others. She suffers an injury from over-stressing her muscles. We see her running twice in one night because she’s gained weight. Brittany now is competing on who she thinks she should be. She might have dropped toxic friendships, started to organize her life, but she’s not listening to her body and, in the end, has to go home to live with her sister’s family to recover.
During a party for her brother-in-law, Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery), Brittany does a heinous thing while drunk and lost in self-pity. She starts to question why a fat woman has a thin husband. Brittany drunkenly tells this stranger that he doesn’t love her. Brittany puts all her insecurity into someone else, all her anger onto someone she’s never met. Brittany does something that we probably have witnessed, especially from former fat people becoming fatphobic. Criticizing others as if that might give them thinness or make them feel better. Brittany tortures someone else due to her lack of self-love or compassion.
She gets scolded later. Demetrius reminds her that she isn’t an island. She apologizes to the woman, admitting it was because she wanted what the other woman had. There’s a part where the woman forgives her and tells her she thinks of her body every day but decided to be happy.
Brittany goes back to New York, finds a job, trains for the marathon for next year. She puts away her scale (which is so much healthier). She makes amends with her friends, and the marathon scene is emotional. All her friends are cheering her on, and it’s hard not to get a little teary-eyed.
It’s a good story based on a personal friend of director Paul Downs Colaizzo. It’s realistic in showing how Brittany goes through waves of emotions, about how as she becomes more physically fit, people treat her differently. Brittany changes when she starts to treat herself right, ask for help, and give others kindness.
That having been said, I sort of wish the movie could have pulled more emotion out of me than it did. It’s operating on the most basic level of a story and especially its comedy. This is something to pass the time, but short of everything else. It went beyond what I expected however wish there was a bit more to hold it together.