Review: Brittany Runs a Marathon

Running in place

Brittany Runs a Marathon

There's a movie called Brittany Runs a Marathon and never has a title been more accurate. It's a movie about Brittany, and yes, she runs a marathon. When she's not running the marathon, she's training for a marathon. And before she does that, she's an overweight party girl who's turning 30 in New York City with nothing to show for it but a bad job at a theater and a friendship with a beautiful solipsist who undermines her at every turn. She does drugs, abuses Adderall, and is a doormat for every guy who looks her way. So she decides to improve herself. The problem with the movie is that she's fun to watch when she's not improving herself. It's mildly fun as she improves herself. And then, once she's improved herself, she turns into a total drag.

Writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo is close friends with someone named Brittany who got herself in shape and ran a marathon, and so he made a movie about her. The problem is that, unlike real life, a movie has to have a plot, have some tension, and raise some stakes. Brittany losing weight and running a marathon and living happily ever after does none of these things, though I think it's what actually happened to the real Brittany.

So, to achieve some drama, Colaizzo makes Brittany mean and selfish and stupid. There's a guy who's perfect for her, so she blows him off for no reason. There's a friend who does something nice for her, so she says she doesn't need anyone's help and stalks off. There's a brother-in-law who's like a father to her, so she mortally insults his good friends at a brunch. She's so appalling you don't know why you should care whether she runs a marathon or not.

I guess Colaizzo had to do this. It's like the second act in a romantic comedy where the lovers have to break up in order to come back together in the third act. In a self-empowerment picture like Brittany Runs a Marathon, the lovers are reduced to a single protagonist, and so the protagonist maybe has to break up with herself in order to come back together with herself. Which is maybe why the movie should have had more of a plot to begin with. None of this is the fault of the comedian Jillian Bell, who's absolutely wonderful in the part and has to be considered a dark horse for an Oscar nomination.

I loved Brittany Runs a Marathon for about 40 minutes, liked it for 15, and then was alternately bored, irritated, and annoyed for the remainder of the running time. And that's sad, because this could have been the kind of movie that helps make the case that adults should go out to a movie. Which I need, because I would like there to be movies other than superhero pictures and horror flicks on the big screen for at least a little while longer. The slice-of-life story, with some uplift—that's what functions as adult counterprogramming.

The thing is, Brittany Runs a Marathon was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and there was a hot bidding war over it that was won by Amazon, which paid $14 million for the rights. Its theatrical run is merely designed to provide publicity for the time when Brittany Runs a Marathon makes its debut on Amazon's streaming service. So maybe Amazon knows better than I. It saw a movie that, in the final analysis, is smaller than life—and it jumped.