Jillian Bell stars as 28-year-old New Yorker who takes up running to get her life in order

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In 2019, a problematic land field awaits a film like “Brittany Runs a Marathon.” Exercise and weight loss lead to happiness? Why can’t someone just be happy in their own skin?

To his credit, writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo anticipates most of these issues and bakes them into his film, a comic drama with very modern sensibilities. But what should be an old-school audience pleaser winds up being a much more complicated film that is often at odds with itself.

Jillian Bell stars as Brittany, an unmotivated 28-year old who is told by her doctor that she needs to lose 55 pounds. Cue Brittany deflecting in her British accent, her go-to defense mechanism. She battles her inner turmoil with outward humor, often making herself the butt of the joke before anyone else can beat her to the punch. 

She does acquiesce, and starts to run, beginning with one block, and then two, and so on. Eventually she decides to enter the New York City marathon along with her newfound running buddies Catherine (Michaela Watkins) and Seth (Micah Stock). 

There are bumps along the way, of course, the hiccups that come with both a physical and mental transformation of one’s self. “Brittany” is honest in addressing these issues, especially the mental scars that do not disappear overnight. But they come at the detriment of the film’s emotional sweep, and a scene where Brittany lashes out during a family barbecue rings false. 

The weight of the film falls on the shoulders of Bell, who lost 40 pounds for the role. Her humor is relatable — from “Workaholics” to “22 Jump Street,” Bell has long been begging for a larger spotlight — but she can't hold up the dramatic demands of the role. Her physical transformation is remarkable, but it’s not enough to get "Brittany" over the finish line. 

'Brittany Runs a Marathon' 

GRADE: C+

Rated R: for language throughout, sexuality and some drug material

Running time: 103 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama 

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