BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON – Review by Brandy McDonnell

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Just the fact that “Brittany Runs a Marathon” ever got past the Hollywood starting line as is – a funny, complicated comedy starring a standout female performer whose character’s whole life isn’t magically fixed because she loses weight, starts a workout regimen and gets a new boyfriend – practically qualifies as a modern moviemaking miracle.

Scene-stealer Jillian Bell (“Office Christmas Party,” “22 Jump Street”) gets her chance at an interesting lead role and literally runs with it, playing a perpetually late, always broke New York party monster who goes to a new doctor hoping to score some recreational Adderall. Instead, Brittany gets the bad news that not only is her weight tipping the scales into obesity but that her blood pressure, liver enzymes and resting heart rate also are alarmingly high.

The doc encourages her to lose weight, exercise and make healthier choices, so she challenges herself to run just one block. Reluctantly taking the advice of her wealthy neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins), a photographer going through a nasty divorce, she joins a running group and befriends fellow newbie Seth (Micah Stock), a sardonic gay dad trying to better his body for the sake of his preschooler. Brittany impulsively proposes that the three of them set a mutual goal to run the New York City Marathon.

As her body gets fitter, Brittany starts getting the rest of her life into shape as well, including ditching the alleged best friend who mocks her healthier lifestyle (Alice Lee) and paying down her debts by getting a second job, where she meets a potential love interest in Jern Utkarsh Ambudkar), who is charming and caring but a slacker.

But real change is hard, and when Brittany’s quest to run the marathon hits a major roadblock, her insecurities, trust issues and low self-esteem become even bigger obstacles.

Writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo makes his feature film debut with the crowd-pleasing comedy, which won an audience award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. A playwright, he based the movie on his real-life best friend, which may account for the fact that it dodges easy answers and superficial uplifts in favor of a story that’s more meaningful, humorous and true-to-life.

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Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell writes features and reviews movies, music, events and the arts for The Oklahoman, Oklahoma's statewide newspaper, and NewsOK.com, the state's largest news Web site. Raised on a farm near Lindsay, Okla., she started her journalism career in seventh grade, when she was elected reporter for her school's 4-H Club. Taking her duties seriously, she began submitting stories to The Lindsay News, and worked for the local weekly through high school. She attended Oklahoma State University, where she worked for The Daily O'Collegian and earned her journalism degree with honors. She worked for three years at small Oklahoma dailies The Edmond Sun and Shawnee News-Star. In 2002, she joined The Oklahoman as a features reporter, writing about movies, the arts, events, families and nonprofits. She moved to The Oklahoman's entertainment desk in 2007. In 2004, she won a prestigious Journalism Fellowship in Child & Family Policy from the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Along with her membership in AWFJ, she also is a founding member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle. Brandy writes The Week In Women blog for AWFJ.org.