I went to Brittany Runs a Marathon wanting a sports movie. You know the type: scrappy underdog gets their shit together and triumphs. It's about the friends we made along the way and all that shit. While this movie has that for sure, it's mostly about mental health. Brittany, a partying woman in her late twenties, is a mess. She's out of shape, binge drinking, blowing dudes in bathrooms, and going to doctor's offices to score drugs. When the doctor gives her a wake-up call, she decides to take up jogging because it is the only thing she can afford. As she creates a better life, she learns that maybe she is not ready for it.
I loved the shit out of this movie. It made me reflect on my own health and wellness journey, a path I tend to wander away from or been lead away from over the last decade. I believe it tells a modern story of someone becoming an adult and what that means. That's important as the world speeds headlong into oblivion.
Here's my notes and explanations, beware spoilers:
The "fat suit" effects in the beginning of this movie are pretty rough. Brittany's face feels floaty and insubstantial, like an instagram filter rather than an effect or prosthetic.
Depressive Self Abuse
First major sign this is more than just a "jog your fat away" movie. The club scene is horrifying as Brittany flirts with a guy who says they can just go to the bathroom and she can kneel on napkins, she rejects him, and then she goes back after a few drinks. A clear message of self destruction handled pretty well.
Self Distortions - Mirrors
A little cliche, but seeing one's self in a funhouse mirror (this time a hotdog cart) is a solid visual metaphor for how Brittany sees herself.
No Kill Shelter Joke
At one point to make herself feel better she tries to get a dog. The kill shelter she goes to tells her she would not provide a good life for it. A funny joke well told (like all of Jillian Bell's performance), but she tells a friend about it on the phone. I would have liked to see the scene.
1 Block, 2 miles, 5K, marathon
I was just curious, so I tracked her workout progression throughout the movie. I might have missed a few steps.
Here's what I meant up top about being lead away from my wellness journey. There's good natured, jovial, helpful, and happy people in your life that will drag you down. Toxic or not, some people need to be told you are not the person you were when you met, and something about the relationship must change. Real friends and family will change and evolve with you. Others will continue to treat you like a slob if that fits their narrative better. Brittany's friend personifies the types of vapid, toxic behavior that can perpetuate in our selfie culture.
Not Win, Finishing
Just a nice line. The goal of a marathon is not to win the damn thing (for all but a dozen people on the planet anyway). The goal is to finish. That's an important thing to learn in many aspects in life.
Catching the train 4?
I just had to track the montage of her trying to catch the train. I think it was about four, but whatever. I found it more interesting that she never caught the train, but someone helped her and then she helped someone else later. Pretty decent metaphor.
How screw this up
Throughout the movie, I kept wondering how Brittany was going to screw up the good places and relationships she found herself in. She did not disappoint. Great character work and acting all around, but Bell played a mess better than I have seen in a while, especially around the picnic table near the end. Oof that scene was heartbreaking.
Don't need coach, mom
No idea what this means.
Jern, Judd Nelson Clone
Despite being of South Asian/Indian heritage, Utkarsh Ambudkar was doing a damn good Judd Nelson impression a la Breakfast Club.
It takes a pretty big chunk of the movie to learn about Brittany's backstory. There's hints about her parents to form a solid base but learning she wanted to write TV jingles in advertising kinda came out of nowhere. It makes sense, but I feel it might have been hinted at earlier somehow.
Flirt with Jeren, hot
This romance started eh, but we all knew where it was going. Awkward stuff at first, but then it's really pretty sexy and sweet.
About health, not happiness, asking for help
See above "How screw this up," as this is the resolution. About this point I realized what the movie's goal was. Brittany needed to let people in, good people, and ask them for help. All her progress up to this point was selfish. Her need to not be pitied shoved everyone away.
Stress Fraction, "I hurt myself"
And here's her realizing it. As she tries to lose the last few pounds, she causes a fracture in her leg. She can't run, can't do anything she has been doing to feel better. "I hurt myself" is a passing line but could be the thesis of this movie.
Still envisions herself alone
There a lot of growth between her hurting herself and the year later skip where she runs the marathon. As she's running in the beginning of the race, I found it interesting the director showing her envisioning herself alone. In one way it makes sense, Brittany putting everything else out of her mind to focus. But it felt like a step back until...
She gets hurt again. A cramp, a small set back, but one that brings her to the real world. People are being led away, not finishing. Can she do it? And then there's her friends. There's Jern saying "I love you" at the finish. It's a really well done scene that kinda has me tearing up now.