This week we review a film that I’ve seen twice now and honestly really love. Spoiler alert – I’m going to be doing minimal snarking about this one because actually it’s quite lovely. And Jillian Bell is a knock out who should lead more films. Just sayin’.
Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)
A young woman decides to make positive changes in her life by training for the New York City Marathon.
Brittany is not in the best place. She’s a greeter on the door of a Broadway show and lives with her narcissistic social-media loving BFF Gretchen (Alice Lee). The pair party hard, and B abuses Adderall, drinks heavily and makes poor personal choices. She lacks focus in her own words and when she visits the doctor, to get her hands on her own Adderall prescription, he tells her her BMI is too high and he’s worried about her blood pressure. Off the back of this visit to the GP, B is tasked with losing around 55lbs, which she cracks is “the weight of a Siberian husky.”
NOTE: This film is definitely triggering. There is a lot of focus on diet and losing weight to become a better, more successful person.
“You want me to pull a medium-sized working dog off of my body.” ~ Brittany
When she tries to join a gym, she realises how expensive it is and decides to try running outdoors because it’s free. After her first attempt she breaks down in tears and receives a visit from her neighbour Catherine (Michaela Watkins), nicknamed Moneybags Martha by B and Gretchen.
Despite Catherine’s attempt to bond, the visit doesn’t go well and B resents being pitied by her neighbour who, in her eyes, has a much easier life than she does. Nevertheless, when Catherine mentions a running group she’s part of, B reluctantly shows up.
At running club, B becomes (kind of but not really) friends with Catherine and also makes an ally in Seth (Micah Stock) who, like B, isn’t a natural athlete and is only really running to make his son and husband proud. After a successful 5k, the trio make a pact to train for and then run the New York City marathon together the following November. As she gets better at running and the pounds start to drop off, B finds a second job, starts dating and meets fellow dog/house-sitter Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who curates her dating profile for her.
B also finds herself drifting apart from Gretchen who doesn’t really support the changes she’s been making. In fact she is continually belittling our girl and trivialising her new interests. When Brittany declines a night in on the booze and ice cream, Gretchen lashes out at her telling her she’ll always be a fat girl.
Jern and Brittany start banging – and things are pretty good – until B doesn’t get a place in the marathon and has to raise the money herself. When Catherine presents her with a cheque for a place on the starting line, Brittany freaks out and rejects the offer as ‘charity’, something she just can’t abide.
She starts avoiding Catherine and Seth so can’t even turn to them when she puts on weight and suffers a stress fracture from pushing herself too hard trying to shift it. Her doc tells her she definitely won’t be able to run in the marathon or do anything too physical for at least six weeks.
This throws her into a panic as she laments returning to her fat self. As she grows increasingly distant from her new friends and her fuck-buddy-or-is-he-more Jern, Brittany gets fired and retreats to her sister’s home in Philadelphia to lick her wounds.
At a birthday party for Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery), her sister’s husband and the man who pretty much raised her, Brittany behaves abysmally towards a fat woman and her thin boyfriend. Full of regret in the morning, Demetrius gives her what for, making her see that she needs to learn to let people help her – and to stop blaming all her problems on her weight.
Can Brittany learn this valuable lesson and sort it out once and for all? I think, with a little help from the people who care about her, she just might…
Again, Jillian Bell is brilliant – and makes Brittany very real and likeable. Even when she’s being a brat and a bitch, you can understand her pain.
My favourite part is the bit in which the large woman Brit’s been mean to gets in touch and explains that she understands where she’s coming from – but has made the choice to be happy. It made me cry. I also shed a few for Brittany as she finally gets to live her dream and is encouraged not to give up by her cheering squad.
I really like this film and it does try to be sensitive about fat and body positivity in some ways, it’s just a shame that Brittany follows the typical weight loss journey to finally realise her potential. It would have been nice if she’d run the marathon as the bigger version of herself or bucked the notion that being thin makes her worthy.
There’s a lot to unpack from this one based on the fat issue but I still liked it.