Brittany Runs a Marathon: Unfinished, by David Bax
Whatever else you might say about Brittany Runs a Marathon, you can’t say director Paul Downs Colaizzo’s heart isn’t in the right place. This is a movie that is overwhelmingly nice to its characters and its audience, an effect it achieves by sanding down its edges. It has little more depth or substance than a television commercial; fitting, in a sense, as its biggest impact may be selling viewers on the idea of training for a marathon.
Jillian Bell is Brittany, a directionless New Yorker whose job at a theater box office apparently pays her just enough to cover her rent and her constant drunken nights out. After a wake-up call from a doctor (Patch Darragh), Brittany joins the jogging club to which her neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins) belongs. There, she and Catherine make another friend, Seth (Micah Stock). The three of them decide to run the New York Marathon together.
From there, Brittany Runs a Marathon fuses its narrative structure to the trio’s long training process. This ought to provide plenty of comedic set-pieces, especially for someone like Bell, who has been reliably hilarious in everything from Eastbound and Down to Inherent Vice. But surprisingly, given that reputation, Bell is at actually at her best in the more dramatic moments when Brittany inverts her insecurities and lashes out at her friends and family. These instances are few and far between but they’re a welcome respite from, say, her unfunny fake British accent.
It would be worth considering that Bell’s undermining of her own comedic talents is a part of Colaizzo’s vision, except that he doesn’t seem to have one that’s identifiable. Brittany Runs a Marathon‘s cinematography is flat and bland. There’s no intention to the framing; the camera operator often seems to have been blindsided, capturing things on the fly, haphazardly, like they’re shooting an overcrowded reality show.
Colaizzo wrote the movie based loosely on the story of a real life friend of his. It’s no surprise, then, when it becomes clear that Brittany‘s most inspired storylines have to do with friendship. It’s a message just as important to adults as it is to children: Find friends who accept you, not those who require you to be someone else.
Unfortunately, that moral gets buried under all the others. Every narrative turn comes with its own lesson, each of which is clearly stated and learned right away. Brittany Runs a Marathon treats becoming a better person like collecting coins in a video game as opposed to a journey that goes on a lot longer than 26.2 miles.