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Amy Schumer is the kind of woman who is comfortable wherever she is. Business on top, party on the bottom. Today it’s sneakers with a pin-striped blazer.
“Samantha Bee said heels are dead to her. I was like, ‘I love that,’” says Schumer, whose feet may or may not have already wriggled out of her shoes.
The 36-year-old comedian is many things — polarizing, politically outspoken and genuinely warm in person. There are two things she’s certainly not: stiff and unrelatable.
“I’m very, very happy and satisfied with my life, which involves exercise and feeling healthy, but also drinking a significant amount of chardonnay and eating a healthy amount of carbs every day,” says Schumer, who is a producer and lead actor in her upcoming film, “I Feel Pretty.”
“Even though a lot of actresses say that they do that, this is what you actually look like if you like to frequent pasta.”
We’re sitting in a private room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., and next to Schumer is her co-star and on-screen love interest, Rory Scovel, from her new movie, which I both thoroughly enjoyed and also question. It releases in theaters on Friday, and it’s why we’re all gathered here today.
But, first, here’s the backstory:
In this rom-com, Schumer plays Renee Bennett, a woman who struggles with feeling insecure.
“I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be undeniably pretty,” says Renee to a model, played by Emily Ratajkowski.
After hitting her head pretty hard during a SoulCycle class, Renee gets back up, feeling magically transformed in a “Freaky Friday” way. Now, when she looks in a mirror, she sees someone who is “undeniably pretty,” when she actually looks the same to everybody else. This newfound confidence propels her to pursue her dream job at a glamorous cosmetics company. Meanwhile, Renee has to grapple with who she really is, as her career and love life keep reaching new heights.
When the trailer for “I Feel Pretty” dropped in February, some people had pretty strong reactions. Let’s just say the Twitter temperature was pretty high on the pre-hate:
I went to an early screening of “I Feel Pretty” with my own set of reservations, curious as to how this movie would treat Schumer’s character. But I found myself — in spite of it all — laughing, half-crying and clapping at the end, along with the rest of the audience. It wasn’t a movie focused so much on physical appearances, but on self doubt. Emerging from the theater, I felt strangely... cleansed. It was, in many ways, cathartic to watch some of these characters — from models to business execs — deal with their own bundles of insecurities, while facing my own. Comparison is the thief of joy, this movie reminded me.
Schumer herself addressed the pre-release backlash on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” last week, explaining that “it’s not about an ‘ugly monster’…she just has low self-esteem.”
She expands on this sentiment inside the small D.C. room we’re occupying: “This movie is not going to solve the world’s problems and fix everyone’s confidence forever, but it is a step in the right direction and that’s the most we can do right now. I’m going to keep working as hard as I can to be more inclusive and empower people as long as I’m allowed.”
Equality is important to her, the actor says.
Schumer continues echoing the importance of diversity in all sectors of life. In leadership. In business. In Hollywood. “There’s a complete inequality,” she says. “Not just for women, but people of color, trans people, people with disabilities. It’s not enough to just know that and be kind. If you’re aware of that, and you’re not doing something to help, then you’re complicit and you’re part of the problem.”
Despite her zeal for inclusivity, it’s hard to overlook that few people of color have speaking lines in “I Feel Pretty.” It’s a short list of actors: Naomi Campbell, Sasheer Zamata and Adrian Martinez. None are considered major characters, help drive the plot forward or belong inside Renee’s inner girlfriend circle, which consists of actors Aidy Bryant and Busy Philipps.
(I reached out to Schumer’s publicist for a response, but Schumer hasn’t commented.)
There is no real sense that this movie is for everyone. For some, absolutely. But the film’s not interested in being convincing as one that really pushes the boundaries of its genre by making, say, the lead character a woman who’s been waiting several years for her green card or experiences life as an already-confident size 28. Wouldn’t it be great if she could fall in love with one of her best girlfriends, too?
That said, “I Feel Pretty” still resonates for a reason. Scovel’s character, Ethan, isn’t your typical swoony, sullen leading man akin to the Ryan Gosling or Colin Firth-types. Instead, Renee’s love interest is a soft-spoken, Zumba-loving guy who doesn’t mind taking a backseat to her shine. Ethan is a man we see often enough in real life, but not often enough on screen. He’s neither exuding toxic masculinity nor completely milquetoast. He’s gentle and kind.
This movie might not be physically or outwardly that inclusive, but its message rings clear: “Men shouldn’t tell men how to act, and women shouldn’t tell women how to act. To me … that’s what creates diversity,” says Scovel, while Schumer nods along.
Acceptance is a difficult thing to come by, and “I Feel Pretty” recognizes that. The movie digs into that doubtful part of us — that small, annoying voice we often hear in the back of our own heads that whispers, “You can always be better” — and expresses it.