1. When was the last time you were told to “RUN, DON’T WALK” to a certain movie? Too long. We should bring it back for Brittany Runs a Marathon, but with a third option: DON’T RUN, DON’T WALK, JOG TO BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON.”
2. Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo, who also wrote the script, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a mostly winning comedy about a 28-year-old “hot mess,” played by Jillian Bell, who improves her life through running. And also eating better, and drinking less, and not being a jerk to the people who care about her, but, as the title suggests, mostly running. It’s an R-rated comedy-drama where the jokes don’t always land, and the drama is occasionally strained, but it gets by on the goodwill of the cast, the journey we follow with Brittany, and the screenplay’s earnestness, which never tips into righteousness.
3. Brittany is training for the New York City Marathon, the largest 26.2 mile race in the world with over 52,000 finishers in 2018. You will immediately want to sign up for the marathon after the movie. Or maybe a half-marathon. Okay, maybe a 5K. Or, if you’re in New York City, stand outside on race morning … or, better yet, watch the thing on television while drinking hot chocolate under the sheets. Leave the self-improvement for Brittany.
4. Running a marathon is difficult, and so is making a movie, and you stumble during both. Brittany avoids any major injuries (I instantly regret this analogy), but there are challenges along the way, which we’ll get to. But first, the positive stuff, like Bell’s performance. Even when Brittany is at her most annoying (three words for you: comedic British accent) or prickly, which is often, like when she rejects a charity offer from her friends/training buddies, you still root for the character, because you instinctively root for Bell. It’s a much-deserved, long-awaited starring role for the Workaholics scene-stealer, who should headline at least one studio comedy a year.
5. She’s so good in 22 Jump Street, too.
6. The rest of the cast — including Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project), and Michaela Watkins (every comedy ever) — do fine work, too.
7. There is a very good scene involving Patti Mayonnaise, from the Nickelodeon series Doug, and another where the Saved By the Bell theme song leads to hot and heavy petting between two characters. More movies should reference Doug.
8. Brittany takes up running after a doctor tells her to lose weight. It’s something that every runner — and, really, anyone who takes up an athletic activity — struggles with. I thought the film did an admirable job of not “fat shaming” Brittany, of avoiding the I Feel Pretty-esque tropes that would sink a lesser movie, but (no pun intended) your mileage from vary. From Runner’s World writer Kate Browne on watching this film: “Reading, watching, and sharing running success stories can inspire people to make big changes in their health and fitness. The problem is that we keep sharing the same story over and over to the exclusion of runners who look like the villains of their own story. Every fat runner I know has had an experience of being shamed, discouraged, or excluded for daring to take up space in our sport.”
9. I’m reminded of something director Barry Levinson once said about Diner, his masterpiece. When an executive suggested that he cut a scene where Steve Guttenberg and Paul Reiser’s characters argue over a roast-beef sandwich because it didn’t advance the story, he responded, “You don’t understand.” The roast beef is the story. Brittany takes place within the montage in other romantic-comedies, like Seth Rogen throwing his bongs away to a Bright Eyes song in Knocked Up. But because the self-improvement tone is already established, it doesn’t feel like an out-of-nowhere moment of feigned sincerity, like when, if memory serves, Amy Schumer does basically the same thing as Rogen in Trainwreck (minus the Bright Eyes song).
10. We see Brittany run with headphones, but never hear “Toxic” by Britney Spears. I call BS on her phone even being on!
11. I watched the movie in a theater full of runners, and while there were steady laughs throughout, the biggest howls of approval came from what it got wrong about running. Like, for instance, how Brittany wakes up at 7 a.m. to run the New York City Marathon (3 a.m. is more accurate), and we never see her eat an energy gel during the race.
12. Also, there are not enough conversations about bathrooms. Try talking about running with a runner, and they will mention bowel movements within the first five minutes.
14. It’s fun to replace the “Brittany” in “Brittany Runs with a Marathon” with other movie titles. Space Jam Runs a Marathon, Ace Ventura Runs a Marathon, Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch Runs a Marathon. Give it a shot.
15. The Search for Curly’s Gold Runs a Marathon.
16-24. I’m combining these bullet points, because as anyone who’s run a marathon knows, these are the toughest miles — your body is tired, you have to remind yourself that the months of hard training led to this moment, and you don’t have the endorphin rush that comes from nearly being done with the f*cking thing. Brittany, too, runs out of steam in a third act pivot towards the uglier side of Brittany’s insecurities. Was that an intentional choice by Colaizzo, to mimic an actual marathon? Maybe, but: no. It’s forced drama, padding to turn a reasonable 80 minutes into an unnecessary 103 minutes.
25. But Brittany finds enough energy to get over the finish line with an ending that, I must admit, made me misty-eyed. This is possibly because I cry at anything related to running (even movies I otherwise hated, like Peter Berg’s jingoistic Patriots Day), but the film has one of the better on-screen depictions of the optimism mixed with nervousness that you feel while waiting in the corral before a race, and the footage of Brittany (spoiler?) actually running the New York City Marathon — it’s there in the title, so I take back my spoiler warning — had me reflexively rooting for her (and Bell, who trained for the role).
26. This, however, remains the best on-screen depiction of running.
26.2. You will probably like Brittany Runs a Marathon if you have never run a marathon. But especially if you have.
‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’ is out in theaters now.