I Feel Pretty writers predict the comeback of character-driven comedies

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Amy Schumer wakes up with all the confidence in the world. Photo courtesy: STX Entertainment

The new character-driven comedy I Feel Pretty stars Amy Schumer as an insecure young woman who wants to succeed in the cosmetics industry but lacks the confidence to follow her dreams. After falling off a spin bike at a Soul Cycle class, she hits her head and the switcheroo begins. Now when she looks in the mirror, she sees a woman who’s “undeniably beautiful,” full of poise and potential.

Writing (and now directing) duo, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein are known for their work in the comedy genre. Films like Never Been Kissed, He’s Just Not That Into You and How to Be Single are just a few of their screenplays that have made it to the big screen.

What’s striking about I Feel Pretty is not only the emotional depth written into the protagonist, Renee Bennett (Schumer), but the honest and vulnerable performance given by Schumer who’s best known for more broad comedy.

“We were really blown away by her ability to not just do the humor,” says Kohn, “but to find the emotional realities this character goes through in life.”

The same can be said for the character Avery LeClaire, a third generation cosmetics-magnate played by Michelle Williams, whose commitment to creating a multilayered character adds legs to the film. And she’s hilarious.

Photo courtesy: STX Entertainment

Though I Feel Pretty might sound like the brainchild of Amy Schumer herself, it wasn’t. The idea was all Kohn and Silverstein’s and when they pitched it to Schumer, she loved it. But there was one element of the story that needed to be addressed: after Renee hits her head and believes herself to be appealing in every way, does her on-screen physical appearance actually change? Would Schumer’s image be replaced by that of a size 2 supermodel?

“Pretty much from the get-go, we all agreed that we would never see what [Renee] sees in the mirror. We felt pretty strongly that it would undermine the message of the movie,” says Kohn.

Silverstein agrees. “That’s sort of the funny double read of the movie. Watching it the first time, it’s a play on those movies where someone has turned into something else.”

Think Big or Shallow Hal.

Photo courtesy: STX Entertainment

But watching the movie a second time, according to Silverstein, “She’s looking at herself and feeling [super confident] and that’s sort of the goal with life. To look in the mirror and say ‘look at all this great stuff I’ve got!’ That’s the message we’re going for and it doesn’t work if you show something else in the mirror.”

Given that Kohn and Silverstein have been writing comedy together for two decades, I asked about the constantly changing comedy genre, because what studios were looking for five years ago, are not what they are looking for now.

“There are cycles that movies go through,” says Kohn. “Right now, we’re at the end –or near the end – of a cycle of hard ‘R’ studio comedies, something that wasn’t being pushed as much when we got into the biz. They were making more character comedies. They usually had romance in them but maybe that wasn’t the thrust of the story. I feel semi-confident that those are coming back again.”

Kohn and Silverstein met in grad school in the film department at USC. They started working together and got their big break when their 25-minute-long romantic comedy screened in a student showcase at the DGA.

Photo courtesy: STX Entertainment

“We got upwards of 100 calls the next day,” says Kohn. “We then started taking meetings, signed with a manager we’re still with and then three months later, we pitched Never Been Kissed and sold that.”

Their advice for writing comedy is very practical. Kohn says, “Especially in the rom-com arena, it’s important your movie be about more than boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. You have to show that women have more going on than just getting the guy. Think about what things are meaningful to you that other people can relate to and let the comedy and originality come from that.”

Silverstein adds, “We’re successful in the genre because this is the genre we love and it’s very true to our voice.”

Kohn and Silverstein’s next project will be a feature-film-version of the 1970s TV show Three’s Company, which they describe as “Spike Jones’ Adaption meets 70s sitcom. It’s very meta.” I’m certainly intrigued.

I Feel Pretty is currently playing in theaters.

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Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera's Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards

6 Replies to "I Feel Pretty writers predict the comeback of character-driven comedies"

  • comment-avatar
    frank gaydos April 22, 2018 (8:17 am)

    I Feel Petty should be renamed: I feel Stupid. An blatant unimaginative rip off of Shallow Hal that has Amy Schumer playing Amy Schumer…”Refried role”..The film got a Critic’s score of 34 and Audience score of 26 on Rotten Tomatoes..that says it all..

  • comment-avatar
    Ron J April 22, 2018 (4:16 pm)

    This is an age old formula, yes in the vain of Shallow Hal and Big. But at least Shallow Hal is honest in its theme. He is shallow. Shallow because he is so focused on the looks of a woman. This is a selfish attribute. He pursues only whom he gets off on. The journey he embarks on is one that takes him out of himself to see the beauty in the souls of others. This is poignant and real. I Feel Pretty is shallow on its face. It is indicative of the current culture of Me, myself and I first. As if the most daunting problem people have today is that they don’t think highly enough of themselves – in the age of selfie-obsessed, look-at-me-now social network culture. Are we really going to keep nurturing this Me-first, instant gratification, mirror obsessed fever forever? We talk a lot about love. But love equals sacrifice. My friend summed it up when his 15-year-old daughter wanted to go out to meet a boy after midnight on a school night. She protested, “But I love him!” Of course she meant I have great feelings for him. But he realized at that moment that feelings don’t equate love. They can be selfish in nature: you make me feel good, therefore I love the feelings you give me. He thought about the sacrifices he and his wife have made as parents. Sleepless nights when she hadn’t come home until 3 in the morning. Long working hours, and pain in child bearing. Until you sacrifice. Your love is cheap. It’s not real. That’s why we relate to stories of real struggle where people sacrifice for others. Sure Rocky is a great film about a man who needs to prove something to himself. But Schindler’s List is the greater of the 2.

    I know that I Feel Pretty is not trying to be Schindler’s List, but it’s about a woman who needs to feel more pretty. That somehow feeling more pretty is the answer to her all problems. I have news for her… most women whom are overweight never feel that pretty. They live with the harsh realities of a world that is obsessed with beauty. It is by looking outside the concept of physical beauty to the value of the human spirit, family and community that liberates them. My mother is one of such people and she loved Shallow Hal. I know I Feel Pretty touches on this but not to any depth.

    I have a 20-year-old daughter that has struggled with this too. But I don’t treat her like a 5-year-old and tell her to look in the mirror and recite “I am pretty.” Of course I tell her she is beautiful. She is. But as soon as I say it, I realize how superficial and unimportant looks are. I go deeper. The reasons she is important are founded in her soul. She is part of something bigger than herself. An integral part of the cradle of life, created for a purpose. Looking in the mirror, puts your eyes only on yourself. It breeds selfishness. My own mother tells me that most of the current movement to empower women is as harmful as it is good. That is, it’s pushing women toward self-absorption instead of selflessness. Is self-absorption really a healthy thing anyway? What the world needs now is (Love sweet love right?) well, yeah, people need to love others as much as themselves. Not to love themselves more. Self-love is important but you don’t get there by loving the image staring back at you. You love yourself when you learn to love others. If you don’t get this, then go work at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or become a foster parent. “In the end the love you take is equal to the love we make.” The Beatles.

    I don’t mean to go on a rant here. But I am honestly tired of the coddling, overfeeding and ego-inflating of people because one belongs to a certain social group; fill in gender, race, age, sexual orientation. We’ve become a society of stereotypes mostly due to PC. We universally struggle with the same things. Belonging to any of these is no reason to be shallow or selfish. We don’t improve society by wiping everyone’s nose, nor our own. We do it by encouraging them to grow up and love others. That is a beautiful society.

    • comment-avatar
      Dane April 23, 2018 (8:48 pm)

      Wow. Couldn’t agree more. Not a popular stance, but true. Thanks!

  • comment-avatar
    Tom April 23, 2018 (8:02 am)

    Well for those who feel that “I feel pretty is a rip off of movies that have been done before, should remember what a producer once said to a screenwriter,. “Give me the same thing, only different.”

  • comment-avatar
    Paul April 26, 2018 (2:48 pm)

    I saw it and it is not a bad little flick. Give it a chance. Now I know that many people like to analyze and criticize everything these days which is fine and Amy Schumer has her fans and non-fans as well. This is a simple little message not a lecture and it works in its own way. Yes another movie about the petty problems of well off Manhattenites but so are tons of other movies and shows. I admit that sometimes I find run of the mill rom-coms and other “unimportant” genres more satisfying than the more overtly “important ” stories. It s not for everyone but for who it is for it is just fine.

  • comment-avatar
    Kenny Rich May 4, 2018 (9:23 pm)

    Geez Ron it’s somebody’s creative endeavor and this ain’t Rotten Tomatoes. Lighten up unless you
    have some piece you created that someone has bought and produced that’s better.

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