Brittany Runs a Marathon

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Brittany Runs a Marathon

At some moment when you need a touch of cheer, try Brittany Runs a Marathon. This comedy is rooted in more than competition. It’s the story of the moment when Brittany begins to recognize that her social/emotional problems are rooted in both her weight and her personality. The cure, she decides, lies in running the New York Marathon – not in winning it, just running it.

Actor Jillian Bell’s creation of the friendless, overweight woman becomes strong as we slowly begin to understand her complex isolation. She rebuffs people, even those who aren’t put off by her weight. She is 5’6”, 190 pounds and her doctor has just told her she has high blood pressure and is simply too fat. At that point the movie takes us into her bad habits: drinking in bars, smoking, overeating. Reaction: she’s too smart and fun to like that life, but it’s all she has.

Then she begins to look more deeply at herself. Others do those things but still hold jobs, have marriages and children. She is alone and she’s irritable. She takes on the weight loss challenge and does it well but finally realizes her problems are deeper than just that. Here comes the strength of the movie: after a year of training, Brittany is still her old self in her new body. Her problems are bigger than weight loss. She is wrapped in pain, fears, and judgment and inflicts it on others.

A neighbor (Michaela Watkins) is a victim of Brittany’s failure to be interested in other people. She just might have problems of her own that make her need a pal but Brittany thinks of herself as the only person with trouble. How could a thin beauty like this have a problem?

As she looks closely at other people, she begins to enjoy the feeling of knowing them without making sarcastic remarks. As 50,000 people gather for New York City’s marathon, we watch this runner as she hears the support of the friends she has made as her new self. It’s a fine, unpredictable windup and the fact that we’re sitting in a movie theater rooting for her is a salute to Jillian Bell’s acting. She has created a lonely woman who analyzed herself and did something to make her empty life better. We have come to care about that.

A second salute is due Utkarsh Ambudkar, the lazy guy who moves into her apartment to avoid paying rent. He creates a fine freeloader without an ounce of ambition or drive and leads us quietly to caring about his future. A big salute goes to writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo who avoided all the small falls that might have made his movie ordinary. He wrote the script and directed a fine group of actors as they created characters that held our interest throughout the film. You may be surprised at how much you come to care about this small group.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Brittany Runs a Marathon
Word Count : 497
Running Time : 1:44
Rating : R
Date : 8 September 2019

This review was posted on September 8, 2019, in Comedy, Drama.

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The Peanut Butter Falcon

The Peanut Butter Falcon offers a complex movie experience. Some of you will be thoroughly absorbed while others may well be disappointed. Whichever emotion claims you, just know this movie is beautifully acted and directed. If ordinary movie makers had set out to tell the story of Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a boy in his 20s wrapped in Down Syndrome, they might have handed us the problems, the heroes, and a solution. None of that happens here.

One quote captures the whole: “Friends are the family you choose.” The family Zak chooses is thoroughly unpredictable. This isn’t a story of an afflicted boy rescued by experts. With the help of his roommate (Bruce Dern), Zak escapes the retirement community where he lives to follow his dream of becoming a wrestler. Out in the world, impaired as he is, he ends up hiding under canvas in the boat of Tyler (Shia LeBeouf), a man on the run from the men whose boat he destroyed. The trust that grows between these two runaways is the core of the film and it is trust we never expected.

Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) is the professional who oversaw Zak’s care in the professional home he ran from. She searches everywhere because she is fond of him and feels responsible. When she finds him with Tyler deep into their escape, she wants to bring Zak back to professional safety – until she sees what friendship with Tyler has done for Zak. During their wanderings through the wilderness, Tyler helps Zak summon inner courage, helps him become the wrestler he dreams of being.

After a short while we stop telling ourselves that none of this could ever happen. Instead, you’ll ask yourself who on earth could have thought of this plot, written it, and cast it. Directors Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz have written and directed all of it.

It has become a fantasy of three people who aren’t hemmed in by rules as they follow the dream of a handicapped boy. As the three bend to that goal, each of them finds his/her inner self. Dakota Johnson brings the caretaker quietly alive as she steps out of her role as responsible professional. Shia LeBeouf is quietly amazing as the man who grows into personal change as he helps the damaged young man come alive. Zak Snyder, a young man who has created an acting career in his life with Down Syndrome has an astonishing inner drive that has allowed him to do it.

What I marvel at is the combination of these actors, writers, directors, and filmmakers who all said yes to making a film that on paper or in conversation sounds impossible. Because of their deep commitment, their talents have created a story that is rooted in a goodness that we rarely see on screen or in real life. Without silly solutions, three people grow together in the wilderness. Love it or not, it’s beautifully done.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : The Peanut Butter Falcon
Word Count : 494
Running Time : 1:37
Rating : PG-13
Date : 1 September 2019