Uplifting and inspiring stories based on real people are all the rage at the multiplex this season. Arriving on the Chuck Taylored heels of “Blinded By The Light” is “Brittany Runs A Marathon”(Amazon Studios). The directorial debut by playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo (who also wrote the screenplay), “Brittany Runs A Marathon” is an entertaining first feature.
The titular Brittany (Jillian Bell, who illuminates the screen) is pushing thirty and pulling around an extra few pounds. She gets winded running for the subway, which she regularly misses making her late for her job at a theater. She’s also more interested in running up a bar tab than jogging to the end of her block. The most exercise she gets in a day is scratching off a lottery ticket.
At a doctor’s appointment where she’s hoping to score some Adderall, she get some bad news about her physical condition – she’s overweight, has high blood pressure and needs to lose 45-50 pounds. Needless to say she doesn’t take the news well. Her self-obsessed social media-driven roommate Gretchen (Alice Lee) is a bad influence and therefore of no help.
Much to her dismay, assistance does come from an unexpected source. Neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins), who Brittany nicknamed Moneybags Martha, is a runner. A photographer who is in the midst of an ugly divorce, Catherine has her studio in the same building where Brittany and Gretchen live. Hearing Brittany crying, Catherine knocks on the door and tries to offer her words of encouragement, but Brittany’s not having it. Nevertheless, Catherine mentions her running group and invites Brittany to join.
(Brittany Runs A Marathon Via Facebook)
Meanwhile, in Brittany’s native Philly, sister Cece (Kate Arrington) and brother-in-law Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery) also offer her words of encouragement. Something in the support she’s receiving spurs her to join Catherine’s New York running group. It’s there that she meets Seth (Micah Stock), a gay dad getting into shape for his son and husband.
Before you know it, Brittany is shedding the weight. She registers to run a 5K marathon. But if she thinks she’ll gets support from Gretchen, she’s wrong. In fact, Brittany’s self-improvement campaign creates tension between the two, damaging their friendship. Additionally, part of Brittany’s betterment program includes getting a second job as a pet-sitter. It’s there that she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar). After getting off on the wrong foot, the pair soon find themselves in a sexual relationship, leading to a series of humorous and affectionate interactions.
Over the course of four seasons, we watch Brittany’s transformation, both physical and emotional, all the while cheering her on from our seats in the theater. To her credit, Jillian Bell just narrowly avoids being a cross between Rebel Wilson and Amy Schumer, infusing the character with an authentic blend of comedic and dramatic moments.