“Brittany Runs A Marathon,” the darling of Sundance and Audience Award winning film, stars Jillian Bell as Brittany, a “hot mess” who attempts to turn her life around one (literal) step at a time.
This hilarious yet insightful and relatable film digs deeply into life, relationships and acceptance.
Inspired by a true story, writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo takes the essence of real-life Brittany’s emotional journey, as she takes charge of her life by not only losing weight, but regaining her sense of self, purpose and love. Bell, of course, takes the character and makes it her own, creating a “Brittany” that we can all relate to and cheer for.
We meet Brittany as a drug-seeking young woman who has no direction in her life, but the doctor who won’t give her an Adderall prescription gives her something much more powerful … words of advice to get it together and lose some weight.
Eventually, after a few humorous and enlightening situations, Brittany begins to do just that. She runs a block. And then another. And another. Brittany travels miles, not only on foot, but emotionally as she begins to see herself and others in a different light.
Beginning to recognize and identify the toxic elements around her, she evolves into a new Brittany thanks to the help of those around her.
Colaizzo creates a well-rounded film filled with characters we all recognize in our own lives, making us laugh and even cry. The situations he creates bring an element of reality as well as humor to each and every situation, but it is the complexity of the character of Brittany that makes the film stand out.
Bell, known more for her fast-paced verbal onslaught of commentary, shows us that she is more than capable of creating a deeply-layered character. Her performance has heart, and we connect with her every emotion, feeling that we are walking (or running) right beside her.
Never before have I seen Bell in a role that required nuance and subtlety, but she finds the right note and pace in every scene, carrying the film and its message with relative ease and supported by an equally talented cast.
This supporting cast of characters is also well-developed, allowing the story to unfold in multiple ways. Catherine (Michaela Watkins) appears to be the well-to-do artist with not a care in the world, or at least that’s how Brittany perceives her. Their unlikely yet authentic friendship begins to pave the way for Brittany to understand others better as well as herself.
While this is a more dramatic element to the story, it is countered by the standout comedic performance by Utkarsh Ambudkar as Jern, a seemingly selfish and unmotivated young man. Each character is substantive, a difficult aspect to create in a comedically-toned film.
Within all of these relationships, even Brittany’s toxic one with her roommate, the dialogue is smart, genuine and succinct. We find ourselves laughing out loud one moment, only to sigh and feel heartbroken the next at the cutting words unwittingly spoken by an insensitive soul. All of this reminds us of the power of the spoken word and how it impacts others.
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” is such an unexpected surprise of the year, blending the elements of comedy and heart together with utmost skill. After seeing this at Sundance in January, I couldn’t wait for the film to be released so that everyone had a chance to be as entertained as I was.
First-time film director Colaizzo is off to a running start and gets a gold medal from everyone who sees this movie. With exceptional performances, the story just gets better, inspiring us while we laugh and shed a few tears.
You might just learn a few lessons and look at others a little differently before you judge that book by its cover. And who knows? You just might sign up for the next local 5k.