We’re living in a weird Golden Age of comedians and comedy actors who venture into uncharted territory with pretty spectacular results. Sketch comedy star Jordan Peele creating a horror movie that’s almost universally considered one of the best films of the new millennium is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Right now, funny folks aren’t just “good” at serious stuff; they’re great. We all know that Jillian Bell is hilarious, and Brittany Runs a Marathon follows suit; however, Bell hits some “Oh snap!” depths of funny that even her fans won’t expect.
The film follows Brittany (Bell), a hard-partier whose life is stalled in a quarter-life crisis. When she tries to scam a doctor for an Adderall prescription, Brittany gets slapped in the face with bad news: She’s overweight. Hoping to kill two birds with stone, she trains for the New York City Marathon to lose the lbs and learn discipline that will—fingers crossed—turn her life around. After that quick summary, yes, I can confirm that Brittany Runs a Marathon hits a lot of beats you’d expect to see in exactly this type of uplifting dramedy. Where it gets all Jordan-Peele-making-Get-Out-y is that the film packs a brutally honest sense of humor we’ve never seen in a millennial makeover movie.
Now, is Brittany Runs a Marathon as good as Get Out? No. Obviously, they’re totally different movies, and this one just isn’t on that level. It’s messy, doesn’t always deliver on the grittiness it promises, has an obligatory romance subplot that I only forgive because I like the actor she falls for, and the body positivity message is kind of at odds with itself. However, it’s cut from the same cloth as Get Out, in that is feels like it announces a serious new film presence.
Bell built a cult following with scene-stealing supporting roles. Brittany Runs a Marathon is the first film that feels totally like her own, with harsh and authentic laughs that I hope Bell gets to take front-and-center in future starring roles. She’s one of those actors I can see going far in the types of comedies that aren’t just funny, they’re actually pretty great movies. Brittany Runs a Marathon is a hell of a start.
It does kind of take the shine off that the writer and director of a film about a young woman’s personal empowerment is a dude… Even if you’re the type who says stuff like, “Well, maybe he was the best person for the job,” in a squeaky Ben Shapiro voice, you have to admit it’s interesting to think about what the film could have looked like if a woman directed it. Still, Brittany Runs a Marathon feels like Bell’s movie. She sets the tone, and this whole deal kind of works out because the tone she brings is exactly what sets the film apart from other “Millenialling is hard” comedies. Brittany Runs a Marathon will be comedy porn for Bell fans, but she’ll surprise them, too.
Grade = A-