Written and Directed by: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Starring: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, Micah Stock
Premiering at Sundance, Paul Downs Colaizzo’s “Brittany Runs a Marathon” is an uplifting, inspired comedy-drama, featuring Jillian Bell as Brittany Forgler.
Brittany has all the right qualities for an up and coming young executive in New York City, but she has one problem: she has very little self-respect and she has no motivation whatsoever.
Her roommate, Gretchen (Alice Lee) is full of herself and she projects that on to the world. Brittany also has an aggressive attitude toward Catherine (Michaela Watkins), the fitness guru of the apartment building they live in.
Colaizzo, a playwright from Pennsylvania, imbues his film with solid characters and situations that will feel very familiar to just about anyone who sees this film. The level of humor and self-deprecation with which Bell approaches her character is what drives this story. None of the themes felt forced; the struggling substance abuse/recovery motif, the gay best friend, the inclusivity of it all is something the story cherishes because they are all facets of Brittany’s journey.
The challenge of the story is that is relies so much on the humor that the drama fell short and when it peaks, the direction it goes doesn’t surprise. It actually felt as if every 1980’s soaring underdog film came together at once, that’s how powerful the peak is.
And then the recovery phase of Brittany’s story, while just as compelling really felt awkwardly paced. It’s as if the story knew which direction to go and tried to get there, but then derailed itself at the same time. Bell holds all of this together.
I don’t mind saying that some of the awkwardness I felt was because it summed me up to a ‘T’. And I got the feeling that Brittany was a stand-in for the director’s own story, which if true, kudos for putting yourself out there, Mr. Colaizzo. It’s difficult to share a journey where the character changes so dramatically, not only in physical figure, but also in a mental state, to the point where we realize that we must make our own way in the world, that we must be responsible for our own happiness and well-being.
The supporting cast really helped to cement the push. Michaela Watkins, who was misunderstood at the beginning of the film, really had a strong arc and progression. Utkarsh Ambudkar, who I remembered from “Blindspotting” last year, played “bohemian” really well (you’ll have to see the movie to understand the reference, but trust me, it works). Lil Rel Howery really drove the film’s thesis home and while I liked his character, he came in during that awkward phase of the film I guess because I heard what the character had to say to me and I just didn’t want to hear it, much like Brittany.
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” is an uplifting story with a feel-good ending wrapped up in a familiar ball of energy. Jillian Bell does an amazing job with the performance and the character, but the story falls flat in the third act.
2.75 out of 4