Brittany Runs A Marathon
Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Writer: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, and Micah Stock
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Rated PG-13 | Minutes: 103 Minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2019
It’s easy to see how some sports movies can be a bit repetitive given their formulaic nature. The training montages, the struggles, and achieving a championship form – whether that means getting an actual trophy or earning the respect of your peers.
But Paul Downs Colaizzo‘s Brittany Runs A Marathon, starring Jillian Bell, doesn’t oversell any of that nor does it become too preachy. Instead, it goes about all of that in an honest way by showing the beauty and ugliness of training hard to become a better person. My full review below.
Brittany Runs A Marathon centers on Brittany (Bell), a 27-year-old who lacks motivation and drive and would rather spend her time partying hard. She isn’t afraid to be judgemental and deflects any sort of confrontation with her dark sense of humor. But when a Yelp-recommended doctor tells her that her lifestyle choices are leading her towards a health crisis, she takes it as a wake-up call to make a change. So she starts by lacing up her shoes and walking a block, which then becomes a mile, and then a 5K. Eventually, she joins a runners group and finds the courage to take on the New York City Marathon. Though Brittany’s mind is set out on accomplishing her goal, is her heart in the right place?
While Brittany Runs A Marathon says it is a comedy, it is not nearly as funny as it thinks it is. However, the film has a well-intentioned message that is delivered in such a way that it makes you forget about the lack of humor and gives you a reason to cheer the lead on to achieve her goal of finishing the New York City Marathon.
This entire film – which is based on a true story of Colaizzo’s friend and former roommate who was going to an extensional crisis – is about Brittany’s journey. It’s so much more than her going through the rigorous training to run the marathon; it is about her becoming a better person. Without knowing it, the training is actually about Brittany becoming a better version of herself. Which means that she has to exercise some of those demons and walk away from temptations. She also surrounds herself with a support group, and it is there that we start to see how she may be taking the wrong approach to this by going about it in a very linear way.
Colaizzo knows that the film cannot be simple and as clear-cut as a someone who hasn’t run a marathon deciding to take on the challenge and accomplishing that goal. He portrays Brittany as a deeply flawed person, whose life is literally passing her by. Old friends are having families or finding success, while she is stuck at an underpaid job and tends to blame her problems on something else. And she avoids confrontation and looming failure through dark humor. So once she gets that wake up call, she does what she can to take back control of her life. One small step at a time.
Rather than showing Brittany’s training montage with pleasant imagery, we see the ugliness of how she can backslide easily when she is presented with unhealthy temptations. This simply reinforces the realities of how difficult it can be to stay on track and how easily a person can fall off. It may be a bit overdramatic at times though. In one scene, Brittany is seen eating a hamburger and puts on a look of shame when a fellow runner catches her. In the same scene, she throws away a basket of cheese fries but expresses zero regrets in scraping off the leftover cheese with her finger.
We already know that Brittany’s journey isn’t going to be smooth. It would be a dull film if she achieved these goals without any struggles. By showing that ugly side, it grounds the film and shows that the training doesn’t isn’t as easy as it looks. It is through Brittany that we see the power of perseverance and how avoiding these vices leads to a path of self-improvement. And in more ways than one.
Not only are Brittany’s lifestyle choices a danger to her health, but also a danger to her self-worth. She believes that she can only make this great life change through running when in actuality her greatest support comes from the friends she has made in her runners’ group and a fellow house squatter. They constantly tell her that she is worth more than her goal to run the marathon. Because she loses sight of that the marathon truly means, she pushes her friends away whenever they are trying to help her, ignores injuries that could lead to permanent damage, or exhibits other forms of self-destructive behavior by intentionally body shaming one of her friend’s birthday guests.
Despite that, we see that Brittany is able to get the best of her self-destructive behavior. In a way, it is almost formulaic. Like something, we’ve seen before. And yet, I still could not help but want to see Brittany run across the finish line and discover her self-worth, the latter of which may take a little longer than needed.
It may lack a certain comedic depth, but Brittany Runs A Marathon‘s heart is in the right place and delivers its well-intentioned message with sincerity. Bell is excellent and a true inspiration. The film may use her comedic talents sparingly, but her desire to make changes to herself and her health comes off as earnest, especially since she doesn’t lose some of that razor-sharp wit. So while it tries to be funny, Colaizzo’s film is better off as a motivational piece to either improve one’s health or self-worth, maybe both.