A young woman decides to make positive changes in her life by training for the New York City Marathon.A young woman decides to make positive changes in her life by training for the New York City Marathon.A young woman decides to make positive changes in her life by training for the New York City Marathon.
So when I checked the cast and realized that she had been given star billing, I was happy. I expected an average, soapy, fell good, warm-under-the-blankets movie, considering the subject of the movie.
And I was glad to have been wrong. It was not an average movie; it was a very good one.
Brittany Runs A Marathon goes beyond the normal superficial fat-person-gets-a-scare-gets-fit-gets-happy-ending story. Yes, it does have those aspects to it, but it goes deeper than most New York-based young woman coming of age stories.
First off, Brittany is a smart person who is barely surviving in the big city, held hostage to the gig economy that has run amok in the US for income. She is stuck with a group of friends who look down on her and string her along to make them feel superior. Her roommate Gretchen (singer and YouTuber Alice Lee in a thankless role) is one of those conventionally pretty young woman who wants to become a social media star, who keeps Brittany around to pad her own insecurities. She is the fat girl of the group, and as a defense mechanism, she develops a great sense of humour (a high speed wit that definitely stands out among the various funny-as-a-defence-mechanism characters I have seen in many movies). She has the fast, club, drug lifestyle; everything a 30-something New York girl can be expected to be like.
The movie, after taking some time to develop her surroundings, starts delving into the story when she invariably has to go the doctor to score some prescription drugs. The doctor, very subtly and sincerely without judgement, advices her to drop 50 pounds in bodyweight. Alarmed at the health situation she's facing, she goes to the gym, and realizes it's too expensive for her (yet another 21st century problem which drives people away from fitness), and decides to take up running.
The scenes were she starts to run is one of the best scenes regarding mental health that I have seen in movies. She looks out at her footpath, and the surroundings, and is hesitant. Doubts run through her mind, and somehow, she wills herself to run one block. She does, and is completely winded. The next day, she runs another. Soon, she decides to make this an important habit in her life, and even joins Moneybags Martha (a delightful Michalea Watkins, a fellow SNL alumnus) in her running group. She makes another novice runner friend, Seth (a very good-looking Micah Stock). Meanwhile, as Brittany realizes Gretchen might not have her best interests at heart, she goes less and less out with her, and her relationship with Gretchen, slowly deteriorates.
Brittany lucks out with one of her pet sitting gigs, where she decides to stay when the owners are traveling around the world, and she also meets (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a fellow millennial who is stuck in a rut.
After finishing a 2 mile marathon and later a 5k run, Brittany is determined to finish in the prestigious New York Marathon, and throws herself into her new lifestyle. But progress is not always smooth and linear, like how most sports movies make it seem. She relapses into bad habits occasionally, is hard at herself for it, and punishes herself with grueling schedules. Along the way, the movie opens up her deeper emotional issues. Every time Brittany seems to be on the verge of making a genuine milestone, something happens which triggers the old insecurities. We go into the story of her parents' divorce and her love towards her late father, and how her brother-in-law took care of her. Her defense mechanism, which helped her during hard times with her father and later in school, have been holding back her progress, and slowly but steadily, she learns to let people who have good intentions towards her into her life. She opens up to Seth and Catherine, formerly known as Moneybags Martha, and decides to apply for jobs that she trained for. She decides to change her relationship with Jern into a healthy one, and makes boundaries with him.
The movie, written and directed by a man, based on the true story of his best friend, seems to be surprisingly realistic towards the experience of a woman who is physically and psychologically unhealthy on her journey towards healing her wounds. This is Brittany's story, and that means we get to see her at her best but also at her worst, many times, as she tries to drag herself out of her personal hellhole. The viewer is privy to not just her light speed wit and funny one-liners, but also acerbic and cruel comments, both borne out of her deeper psychological wounds. The subtleness and great care shown by the writer-director in depicting every aspect of a self-empowerment journey is what makes this movie stand out among such movies.
The cinematography on New York is well done, with minimal use of extravagant, beautiful shots that are a staple of rom-coms set in the city. The lighting is very appropriate to the scenes. The colors are bright whenever Brittany is in New York doing her thing, but goes darker when she goes into one of her dark phases, which I thought was a nice touch. A little care with editing, especially the inclusion of the epilogue would have made this a taut movie, but it seemed like the director decided to give Brittany her happy ending. He seemed to have been reminded by someone that too much realism could sometimes turn off people who came to watch a feel-good movie, apparently.
DIRECTION 7 SCREENPLAY 7 ACTING 7.5 CINEMATOGRAPHY 7
- May 31, 2020