Written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo, Brittany Runs a Marathon tells the story of a hard-partying woman (Jillian Bell) who is challenged to change her life when she receives a wake-up call from her doctor regarding her physical health. Motivated to lose weight, Brittany opts to train for the New York City marathon while taking the opportunity to re-examine her priorities, friends and family relationships in an effort to prepare herself for the emotional journey ahead.
Based on a true story, Marathon is a fun but thoughtful film that crosses the finish line on the strength of lead Jillian Bell. While the film features strong performances from supporting cast members (especially Utkarsh Ambudkar), this is Bell’s film to carry. As Brittany, Bell creates a character that the audience both cheers on throughout her journey, yet also bears the scars of her burdens. While some might focus the narrative on the larger issue of the impact of the marathon itself, Colaizzo wisely focuses the story entirely on Brittany’s personal journey, giving the film a more intimate feel. As a result, the film both allows Bell to shine through her comedic forte but also explore her dramatic side as well.
With the marathon looming in the distance, Marathon is a story about one woman’s hard work to get her life together, rather than just ‘getting healthy’. Having been shunned and called lazy due to her weight most of her life, Brittany’s real battle is within. No matter how many pounds she sheds, she still views herself through the warped lens of others, causing self-loathing and disgust. For her, the marathon becomes an opportunity to not only get into shape but also to grapple with her own emotional demons as well. (“The marathon was never about losing weight. It was about taking responsibility for your life,” her brother-in-law wisely reminds her.)
Drawing ever closer on the calendar, the marathon soon becomes a metaphor for the battle for Brittany’s peace of mind. Brittany doesn’t need to run because of some compulsion to win. She needs to run to tell herself that she can finish well, not just in the race but also in her own life. Hilarious and touching, it’s Brittany Runs a Marathon’s interest in exploring responsibility and growth as opposed to merely physical health that really sets it apart from the pack.
Brittany Runs a Marathon jogs into theatres on August 30th, 2019