“BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON” My rating: B (Opens Sept. 6 at the Glenwood Arts)

113 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Published September 5, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene

The title character of “Brittany Runs a Marathon” does indeed participate in the famous 26.2-mile run through New York’s five boroughs…but Paul Downs Colaizzo’s film isn’t really about running.

Rather this comedy/drama, alternately hilarious and emotionally abrasive, is about the slow journey to self acceptance.

That may sound like a slog, but — like training for a marathon — it pays off in unexpected ways.

Brittany (Jillian Bell) is a 28-year-old Queens resident with a lifestyle that is slowly killing her.  She subsists on junk food, she gets drunk regularly, she dispenses b.j.s in a nightclub men’s room.

According to her physician, Brittany’s  body mass index qualifies her as obese (she indignantly accuses him of fat shaming); meanwhile her blood pressure is soaring and her liver isn’t looking so good.

Brittany is a lonely mess, although she works to hide that with buckets of self-deprecating and/or aggressive humor.  lf she can’t be loved (she’s never been in an actual relationship) she might as well be amusing.

Sometimes, though, all she can do is bawl.  One of her wailing sob sessions draws the attention of her upstairs neighbor, Catherine (Michaela Watkins), a middle-aged photographer Brittany usually ridicules as a bourgeoise poseur.  But Catherine ignores the abuse and in a display of compassion invites Brittany to join her  weekend running group.

Our girl’s first attempt at jogging is hilariously terrible — at least she can share her shame and frustration with another newbie, Seth (Micah Stock), a funny gay guy running to fulfill a promise to his husband and their young son.

But with the support of Catherine and Seth — and encouraged by the loss of a few pounds — Brittany devotes herself to loping through the mean streets of NYC. The trio make a pact: they’ll run in next year’s New York Marathon.

As Colaizzo’s screenplay makes clear, physical conditioning is the easy part of Brittany’s journey. The real obstacles are in her head.

For every step forward health-wise, there seem to be two steps back emotionally and socially.  Brittany’s dedication to running and newfound dietary ideals alienate her pretty, svelte roomie Gretchen (Alice Lee), whose own self-image issues have been kept at bay by having a fat girl as her sidekick (and by telling herself she’s just one posting away from becoming an internet “influencer”).

And when she suffers a setback (a stress fracture in her shinbone), an embittered and surly Brittany takes shelter in the Philadelphia home of her sister and brother-in-law where she alienates everyone by humiliating a fellow overweight woman at a dinner party.

Midway through “Brittany Runs a Marathon” the film introduces a new character, Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who is  sharing dog-sitting duties with Brittany in the fancy-schmancy apartment of vacationing rich twits. The two decide to take up unauthorized residence in the plush digs and through much comic bantering segue into a romance.

Near its conclusions “Brittany” finds an almost ideal balance between humor and inspiration…as our girl pushes herself to complete her epic run she (and we) realize that she now has friends and supporters, that she’s capable of transforming herself physically and spiritually.

You may find yourself suppressing a sob or two.

All this may sound like a tall order, but despite a few missteps “Brittany Runs a Maraton” delivers the uplifting goods.

Let’s go for a run.

| Robert W. Butler

Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene

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Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.

He couldn’t take the hint.

OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.

UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.