For a few years now, Jillian Bell has been stealing scenes and commanding the screen in a multitude of comedic supporting roles. Now, in her first major leading role, Bell steps firmly into the spotlight and delivers the very definition of a star-making performance.
In Brittany Runs a Marathon, she is the titular Brittany who finds her comfortable but go-nowhere life upended after a doctor's visit brings her weight and life choices into question.
Pushed on by seemingly perfect neighbour Catherine, Brittany reluctantly takes up running. Buoyed by the sudden personal changes, she quickly becomes committed and decides she will take on the New York Marathon.
It's a story that easily could have been played with total seriousness and high drama, but Bell and writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo instead opt for comedy that allows the themes and story to naturally develop.
Brittany is an awkward but sociable goofball masking a sadder, more insecure self, and Bell showcases the two sides of her character with flawless perfection.
What really works about Brittany is it never feels like an advertisement for a healthy lifestyle that exists to shame the audience into action. It is an exploration of a millennial lifestyle, more focused on self-acceptance than on the athletic plot points. Running represents an out and a challenge for all our characters, and ultimately proves a vessel to guide Brittany's journey to becoming a better person.
With that said, don't be surprised if you find yourself suddenly motivated to go for a run.
Brittany is as uplifting as it is hilarious – to say it makes you laugh and cry feels like a cliché, but is perfectly apt for this finely balanced dramedy that, if there was any justice in Hollywood, would launch Bell into a plethora of leading roles.
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Micah Stock
Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Running Time: 104 minutes
Rating: M (sex scenes, sexual references, drug references & offensive language)
Verdict: A joyous, heartwarming film grounded by an astounding lead performance