Brittany Runs a Marathon

by Toby Woollaston

britAs Brittany Runs a Marathon’s spoilerific title hints, this movie quite literally does what it says on the tin. Yes, Brittany does actually run a marathon. But this indie dramedy also packs plenty of soul-searching smarts that go beyond the accessibly cheerful packaging. Think Francis Ha with sneakers.

In her late twenties and unhealthily overweight, Brittany drinks heavy and parties hard. She’s happy on the exterior but sad on the inside, so much so that together with a wakeup-call from her doctor, it leads her to question her hollow lifestyle. As she embarks on a journey of reinvention, she is forced to contend with the inherent messiness of body positivity, the awkward push-and-pull of being happy with the body you’re in, and recognising that losing weight is important for your longevity. Not easy when your best friend is an online influencer who can’t run because “it makes me too skinny”.  Despite this, Brittany laces up her running shoes, thanks in part to her burgeoning new-found support group; the sporty woman upstairs, her understanding black brother-in-law, her gay running partner, and the unlikely Indian love-interest.  Yes, representation is woke-fully present in this film, a good thing if perhaps a little intentional.

But contrasting this refreshing blend of new-world characters is Brittany’s more traditional narrative arc.  It is, when pared down, a predictable crowd-pleaser. However, the feel-good vibes are elevated by some delightful directing, thoughtful writing, and heartfelt performances from the cast. Written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo (his first feature), Brittany was inspired by his real-life flatmate.  His screenplay is consistently honest in its conversations about weight, wellness, and self-worth. But the pairing of his screenplay to actor Jillian Bell (Rough Night) is the film’s master-stroke.  Bell’s pitch-perfect performance really makes this film hum as she takes the self-deprecating Brittany along a path of physical and emotional change.

Although Brittany runs through a lot of familiar territory, there is a sense of authenticity to Colaizzo’s film. Joyful, funny, and inspirational in a totally unsentimental way, this film crosses the finish line with its head held high.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.