Brittany Runs a Marathon focuses on a woman who has come to the realization that she isn’t happy with where she has found herself in life. Starting off at a posh ad agency in The City, Brittany had high hopes for herself and her career. But, alas, we pick up the story and she is a 197-pound party girl with an iffy job and an iffier circle of friends. During a visit to her local clinic to score some recreational prescription meds, her doctor gives her an earful about her sorry state of health. Brittany decides she needs to do something, and that something is to start running.
We’ve seen versions of this movie before, of course, but this one has both some originality and plenty of audacity. L&D particularly liked Jillian Bell in the title role, and neither of us for a second believed that she was acting the part because she owned the part. We agreed that her performance was both seamless and brilliant, even if we felt like scolding her throughout the film. I thought the rest of the characters were extremely well cast, even if I thought the story arcs were either incomplete or bungled for every single character aside from the title character. Even so, the film had some truly enjoyable personalities, especially Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who we loved, and Gretchen (Alice J), who we didn’t.
Thematically the movie is a not terribly subtle homage to the original Rocky film, with a loser in the title role who has an opportunity to transform herself into someone she’d rather be. Brittany does a really good job of emphasizing that the transformation is both physical, virtually anyone can get their body in better shape (especially people who currently spend an inordinate amount of time boozing and smoking and doing drugs), as well as mental. The emphasis on the difficulty in changing her own mentality about her identity is well done. Indeed, this is expressed quite profoundly in a number of spots, including a remarkable scene where her super mean roommate tells her to keep her old clothes, because even if Brittany manages to keep the weight off, she’ll always be the “fat girl.” Ouch. It isn’t until Brittany realizes that it is about process and not outcomes that the transformation is complete.
Unlike Rocky, which dispenses of the character’s bitterness early on in the film, Brittany spends a good deal of time holding on to her anger and envy and insecurities, and dishes out her share of punishment throughout the film. Indeed, my major objections to the film are not that the supporting characters’ are not sufficiently developed or that their story arcs are not resolved in a convincing fashion (they aren’t and they aren’t). My beef is that the movie is extremely short on reconciliation. Why do these folks continue to embrace her unconditionally? She isn’t that funny.
Overall, we are enthusiastic about this one for a great leading role, some great supporting characters, and an enjoyable and thought-provoking storyline. In a year where we haven’t loved a lot of films, this one could creep onto our year-end list perhaps. See it before it’s gone, or catch it on Amazon Prime on the rebound.