Despite my great love for Lizzo, I just couldn’t bring myself to go see “Hustlers” this weekend. Instead, I found myself watching “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” which is about an overweight woman who turns her life around by getting healthy and becoming a runner.
Brittany (Jillian Bell) is pushing 30, heavy and kind of an overgrown child. She goes out drinking with her roommate, Gretchen (Alice Lee), practically every night. She doesn’t have a lot going for her, in case you couldn’t tell. When Brittany schedules a doctor’s appointment to scam/score some Adderall, it doesn’t go as planned when the doctor not only refuses to give her the medication but also instructs her to get healthy.
Suddenly, all Brittany can think about is her weight. She discovers joining a gym isn’t within her budget and decides to take up running instead, one block at a time. She soon makes friends with other runners, Seth (Micah Stock) and Catherine (Michaela Watkins). When the three decide to run the New York City marathon, Brittany takes on a second job as a house/dog-sitter. It’s there she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), the night-night shift sitter who’s become a squatter in the house the two are watching.
As she develops a runner’s body and confidence for the first time in her life, she begins to evaluate who she is. More importantly, she begins to evaluate what she wants.
She’s never had a relationship. She’s always been the fat girl you have a good time with in a bar bathroom, not the kind you take home to Mama. Even her “best friend” Gretchen treats her like a fat sidekick, constantly poking and trying to stop Brittany’s progress. But, even as Brittany begins to recognize there are things missing in her life, she can’t get over the crippling anxiety and self-esteem issues that have plagued her.
There are very few of us in life who can say we’ve not struggled with anxiety, depression or self-confidence. If you can, I envy you. “Brittany Runs a Marathon” isn’t just about a fat woman losing weight or accomplishing her goals. It’s a film about self-worth and self-loathing. Brittany pushes away all the good people in her life because she just can’t accept that people might love her.
When a stress fracture sidelines her running, she bails on life. Her new friends? Blows them off. Jern, who she’s begun an intimate relationship with? Kicks him to the curb. She retreats to her sister’s home, where she can just live in the basement and forget. She can forget she wanted to run, not just to get somewhere but to accomplish something. She can forget that there are people who didn’t treat her like garbage. She can forget that she’s anything but the invisible girl no one would hold a subway door for.
To be honest, everyone in this film is struggling to figure out who they are. Brittany doesn’t have a clue. Catherine is a wealthy photographer who’s going through a divorce and may lose her kids. Seth is a gay man trying to prove he’s not a stereotype. Gretchen lives a sad life but creates a persona for Instagram. Her sister’s husband and Brittany’s honorary stepdad, Demetrius (Lil Rey Howard), has been telling himself for years he’s going to get his college degree. As a grown man, Jern still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up.
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” is a film about struggle and strife. Yes, it’s also about a woman going from clinically obese to running the New York City marathon, but that’s not the real struggle here. It’s a film about learning to love yourself. Maybe you will, too, after seeing this movie.