Inspired by director Paul Downs Colaizzo’s roommate, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a contender for one of this year’s biggest surprises. On the surface, its easy to write this off as “just another average comedy”, but it’s infinitely better than that.
The film follows 27-year-old Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell), an outgoing, goofy and underemployed woman who lives in New York City. One day she ends up in a doctor’s office trying to get some Adderall, but ends up faced with a reality check: she needs to get healthy.
That’s a hard thing for anyone to come to terms with, and Brittany is too broke to get a gym membership, after a hilarious scene in the film mocks just how ludicrous certain gym membership fees can be. As a result, it’s difficult for her to get started.
Brittany is a very troubled woman, she’s nearing 30, stuck in a rut, and living with roommate Gretchen (Alice Lee) who is so self-absorbed she doesn’t offer her any support at all, even though she’s convinced she has. The dynamic between these two characters is upsetting to watch, but brilliantly played by both actresses.
But she forms an unlikely friendship with her neighbour Catherine (Michaela Watkins), who frequently goes on runs with a local running club. During Brittany’s first run with the club, she also meets Seth (Micah Stock), a man with a husband and children who wants to run the New York City Marathon and make them proud.
The friendship between the three characters inspires Brittany to train for the marathon, which is a whopping 26.2 mile run through the city. That’s enough to make a seasoned runner wince, but training with two positive influences really helps Brittany find it less daunting.
This film could’ve easily mocked plus-size women, and crafted an occasionally funny story about a big woman who tones up and that’s that. Brittany Runs a Marathon doesn’t simply encourage the audience to laugh at the perils of an unhealthy woman, because we really get to deep dive into the character’s psyche.
In fact, you might cry at this film as much as you’ll laugh, because it makes a point of calling out problematic, self-destructive behaviour. It does this to other characters as much as it does to Brittany. You may even relate to some of them, or even to our protagonist.
Toxic relationships play a key role in this film, and how surrounding yourself with the wrong people can cause you to feel even worse about yourself. As much as this film is about Brittany training for a marathon, it’s also about her mental journey to a better place and being a better person herself.
Again, that might sound cliché, but somehow it feels fresh and exciting. Despite this theme being predictable, the film takes twists and turns that keep the script interesting and the audience on the edge of their seat. It’s incredibly well written.
There’s quite an impressive list of characters here, as Brittany meets all sorts of people on her journey to the New York Marathon. As well as Gretchen, Seth and Catherine, she crosses paths with Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who is the “night guy” at a pet-sitting gig she lands to pay the bills.
Jern embodies many negative stereotypes such as being a ‘man-child’. In other words, being a complete slob and watching cartoons all day whilst someone pays you. Naturally Brittany isn’t impressed by sharing his company, but the two form an unlikely bond as the film progresses.
Overall, Brittany Runs a Marathon is a quirky, relatable and, at times, upsetting comedy that has far more heart than its promotional materials might suggest. Whilst this film does joke and mock stereotypes, it also gives its characters a much needed chance at redemption, and to change their ways.
My Rating: ★★★★★
Directed by: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Written by: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Cast: Jillian Bell, Alice Lee, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar