I left the theater after seeing Brittany Runs a Marathon with a smile on my face but by the time I got to the car I found myself reassessing my life. A good story will do that to a person, but I wasn’t expecting it from a nutty comedy about an overweight woman wanting to better herself. In fact, I was one of the few men at the screening. But regardless what gender you are, I suspect that a bunch of people will begin on their own “marathon” of change after viewing the movie.
Written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo, a first time movie director (but an award-winning playwright), Brittany Runs a Marathon is based on a true story about one of Colaizzo’s friends who actually ran in a New York City Marathon. However, the filmmaker admits that he took some liberties with the story and after watching the final product, I suspect it was a lot.
Jillian Bell plays Brittany Forgler, who wakes up to the crack of noon, parties hard, lives like a slob, and is hardly ever serious and when she is, she speaks with a British accent. There is no doubt that the 27-year-old is a lot of fun to have around, but her life is mess. Her roommate Gretchen (Alice Lee) doesn’t care. She’s too busy shooting YouTube videos with her self-absorbed boyfriend pretending that they’re rich.
However, Brittany gets a wakeup call when seeing a new doctor at a free clinic in hopes of scoring some Adderall. Not only does he not prescribe her the drug, he tells her that she is overweight, her blood pressure is high and if she doesn’t get healthy soon, she will live a very short life.
After a divine appointment with Catherine, her “snooty” neighbor from upstairs (Michaela Watkins), Brittany is invited to join Catherine with her running group. Brittany scoffs at first scoffs and snaps “I don’t need your charity,” but shows up anyway. While out on a run and coming in dead last, Brittany meets Seth (Micah Stock), another runner cursing the day he was born. And soon, the two start a new friendship. Eventually, Brittany, Seth and Catherine begin training together and talk about running a marathon.
As Brittany starts to see changes on the scale, she begins to make a few other changes including finding a second job taking a housesitting gig to look after the owner’s dog. This is where she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar) the “night guy” who house sits at night. They start off with a very combative relationship, so you know that he will be the love interest. Eventually.
But while Brittany is hilarious, the film shows that it has a deeper purpose. The marathon is really just a metaphor to better oneself. This self-discovery leads Brittany to question a lot about her life including her friends, her dreams and her desires to be loved.
Now before you run out and see this movie, I feel that I need to point out a few things. Colaizzo has stated that he didn’t want to make a comedic “fat girl” movie. He wanted to make a film that was funny but also had some depth and didn’t contain a bunch of stereotypes. This is a great goal, but some interactions felt more politically correct than actually reflecting life as it really is. The film has also been rated with a solid “R” for a reason. It is full of language, scenes of drug use and some scenes of what I would call a negative view of sex. (Hey, if you want to do a movie that isn’t a stereotype, feature a couple who waits to marry before they have sex!)
After Britney declares having a lot of sex with one man, her friend says, “You just might fall in love with this guy” which I guess is pretty normal for many modern relationships, but it is still pretty sad nevertheless. With that said, this movie also speaks about the importance of of a positive, loving relationship rather than a “friends with benefits” type. In another completely different conversation, Brittany says something to the effect of “No matter what we do, we’re all going to end up single” to which her friend says, “Have you ever heard of marriage?” so kudos for that.
Viewers unable to overlook the negatives will miss all of the positives that this film has to offer. Brittany Runs a Marathon is movie about accepting oneself, standing up for yourself, bettering yourself, letting others in, forgiving others and asking for forgiveness. And running.
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.