By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
So far, it has been a great year for inspirational, feel-good cinema. And considering that the real world has taken some scary and disturbing turns in the past few years, maybe crowd-pleasing cinema is just what the doctor has ordered. Comedic actress Jillian Bell gets her first lead role in a movie that not only offers a wonderful triumph over challenges story, it does so realistically and with much heart, grace, and gusto. Brittany Runs a Marathon proves to be just what our world needs, and also allows Jillian Bell to show some tremendous range as an actor.
Bell stars as Brittany Forgler, a young woman with a great sense of humor, but one who has fallen into a bit of an aimless slump in life. Struggling to find herself a successful and satisfying career, Brittany attempts to raise her spirits by partying beyond her means with her more “successful” and seemingly happier friends. During a routine visit with her doctor, she gets a stern warning. All of her bad habits (poor diet, lack of exercise, hard partying) has not only increased her weight to unhealthy levels, they can lead to more serious complications as she gets older. Disturbed and frightened by her examine results, Brittany decides to begin an exercise regimen and eventually makes it her goal to run the New York marathon. This proves to be a difficult journey, but with new friends, Catherine (Michaela Watkins), Seth (Micah Stock), and Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar) in her corner, she might just manage to accomplish it.
Now I realize that my synopsis might make this movie sound obvious and trite, but writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo has the gifts to pull it off beautifully. Both Colaizzo and Bell do such tremendous work to make Brittany a real and genuine character who must rise above her own personal issues to make some positive changes in her life. The movie has a perfect balance of comedy and drama that makes this journey feel all the more true to life.
Bell’s performance alone makes Brittany a character with whom most people can relate. It is a superb turn that deserves praise from critics and some love from audiences. Collaizzo and Bell also develop the character with some less endearing personal traits which make her feel like a more tangible hero. The film also features some outstanding work by Michaela Watkins, Micah Stock, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Lil Rel Howery.
So even though most movie audiences have seen stories like this one, this an example of a filmmaker and his cast and crew getting everything done right. Brittany Runs A Marathon is an absolute triumph of a film and one that deserves both praise by critics and so much love from audiences. It is not only one of my favorite movies of 2019, but it is one that I hope gets nominations for witing and for Jillian Bell’s performance. It is definitely a must-see film.