Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is a single New Yorker in her late 20s who is lonely, overweight, clueless about her future, and overly dependent on drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. Her go-to tack of brushing things off with a childish joke is wearing thin, and after her new doctor informs her that she is essentially obese, Brittany wakes up to reality and starts exercising. With New York gyms prohibitively expensive, she reluctantly follows the lead of her fitness-obsessed neighbor (Michaela Watkins) and starts running laps around her block.
Is this one of those movies where the title gives away the ending? Well, what do you think? Easy money also says that Brittany will find love, acceptance, and a renewed sense of purpose along her journey. Look, when a crowd-pleasing indie like this comes along, the question is not whether it has a happy ending, but whether it earns it. And I feel that Brittany Runs a Marathon does earn it.
I have apparently seen Jillian Bell in several features, but she left no impression in supporting roles. Perhaps that speaks to Brittany's theme, in which a thoroughly average everywoman, forever fading into everyone else's background, is still the heroine of her own story. As such, Bell is a real discovery as a leading lady. She turns in an honest, gutsy performance, her Brittany a fully convincing profile in self-loathing.
Writer/director Colaizzo, who based his story on the adventures of a real friend of his named Brittany, doesn't shy away from the ugly details, either. Getting in shape is an intimidating thing, and overcoming inertia is one of the toughest tasks in the world, especially when you don't have much initiative to begin with. Brittany Runs a Marathon portrays this authentically – even when Brittany finally hits her (literal) stride, she never seems to particularly enjoy running. The film also succeeds at another, more subtle level as a 2019 snapshot of the eternal war between the haves and the have-nots. Social media isn't so much demonized as it is shown to be just another weapon of class warfare.
Some viewers might quibble about the believability of Brittany's small network of friends, who love her unconditionally no matter how toxic her personality can be (and it can be quite toxic). The movie certainly would have been a lot bolder if it had dared to make Brittany face her demons alone, instead of giving her a standard rom-com support group. But that would have been an entirely different sort of film. You watch Brittany Runs a Marathon because you want to feel good, and Brittany Runs a Marathon will indeed make you feel good, without any pandering or platitudes. Go see it.