It might as well be reaching the summit of Everest, that’s how far-fetched running a marathon is for Brittany at the beginning of Brittany Runs a Marathon. At 27, she is lost in her dingy Queens lifestyle, with a part-time job she won’t take seriously, regular partying, and generally self-destructive behavior. Who hasn’t felt lost at the beginning of adulthood?
Running for Transformation in Brittany Runs a Marathon
This heartfelt dramedy depicts Brittany’s personal journey and is written by first-time director Paul Downs Colaizzo, who comes from a theater background. The story was inspired by his best friend Brittany’s personal struggles. The resulting film, Brittany Runs a Marathon, is inspirational yet modest — like Brittany herself. She is a relatable underdog, a misfit of a young woman who finds transformation after hitting a personal rock bottom. The character is portrayed with verisimilitude by actor Jillian Bell, an Emmy-nominated SNL writer with a long resume of supporting TV and movie roles. Garnering a lot of positive street buzz, this Sundance Film Festival entry sold during the festival earlier this year for a whopping $14 million to Amazon Studios.
The film begins with a snore, setting the tone for presenting uncomfortable personal and body issues. Brittany is not committed to her theater lobby job — she is underemployed and has a generally lackluster approach to life. When trying to score Adderall from a doctor, she is painfully informed that she is obese. This left hook throws Brittany for a loop. As her life seems to fall apart, a sympathetic neighbor knocks on the door. The neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins), a divorced artist, is not unfamiliar to pain. An avid runner, she suggests Brittany join her running group.
The Camaraderie of Running in Converses
After resisting for quite a while, Brittany eventually convinces herself to go for a run. In a realistic scene, she puts on two bras and ratty Converse shoes and has to encourage herself to just get to the end of the block. This minor effort exhausts Brittany, yet becomes her first Mount Everest. Eventually she does join her neighbor’s running group, where Brittany meets another novice runner who becomes her motivating sidekick. During runs, Catherine slows down to accompany the slower runners and enjoy their goofy company. We, too, are distracted by the wack-pack camaraderie and don’t even recognize how fit the runners are becoming.
Running the NYC Marathon
After all the fits and starts, it takes Brittany a couple of years to win a lottery space for the New York City Marathon. When it finally happens, you feel like a co-participant since Brittany’s running scenes were shot during the actual live event. During this period, she also grows in her personal life. She stops partying, pulls away from her toxic roommate, and slowly builds self-respect. Comedic turns come from her relationship with man-child Jern, played by Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project). The quirky couple has a low-simmer friendship that sweetly and awkwardly develops into something more. Brittany is also supported by her older, paternalistic brother-in-law played by comedian Lil Rel Howery. His character is one we don’t often see onscreen: a sympathetic father substitute.
Director/writer Paul Downs Colaizzo poignantly captures a female millennial voice and point-of-view. “My concept for the film was to take a stock character from big American comedies – the ‘hot mess,’ the ‘fat sidekick’ —and turn the camera squarely in her direction. What’s her human story? What does she struggle with? And how is her story everyone’s story?” He accomplishes this as Brittany Runs a Marathon makes you consider the personal marathon that you can conquer.
See Brittany Runs a Marathon
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga . Now, she’s working on teaching yoga and joy of life to the grandkids!