Review: ‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’

Brittany Runs a Marathon one-sheet poster

Brittany Runs a Marathon | Paul Downs Colaizzo | August 23, 2019

When we first meet Brittany (Jillian Bell) in writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo’s debut feature Brittany Runs a Marathon (based on a true story of a friend of Colaizzo), she isn’t in a good place in her life. She’s 28 years old, but doesn’t have much to show for it, spending her nights partying into the wee hours of the night with her roommate Gretchen (Alice Lee) and working at a small improv or off-Broadway theater. She isn’t happy with where she is, but she isn’t actively seeking out ways to better herself either. She gets by with her wicked sense of humor, usually overcompensating for any other shortcomings.

Brittany Runs a Marathon still - Brittany considering a run

It’s when she goes to see a doctor (Patch Darragh) about her general lethargic feeling – and to get some Adderall – that she gets a rude health awakening. She needs to shape up not just her lifestyle, but her body, and get some proper exercise. This seems like an insurmountable task to Brittany, who can’t afford to go to the fancy neighborhood gym, so she does the best that she can under such a strict budget and starts running.

Brittany Runs a Marathon still - Brittany running

At first, she barely can get herself out the door and even turns away the first time, intimidated by her own reflection. But it doesn’t take her long to get into the swing of things; not only does she keep doing it, but she starts to really enjoy it. It’s running that brings her closer to her once frenemy neighbor Catherine (SNL alum Michaela Watkins) and fellow newbie runner Seth (Micah Stock). They all become such a tight-knit group that they decide to embark on the New York Marathon together, the ultimate goal for any serious runner. In order to train properly, she takes a dog-and-house-sitting gig, where she meets fellow sitter/house-crasher Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a well needed new dimension in her life after her friendship with Gretchen becomes strained when her running and wellness takes priority over late nights out and drunken vomiting.

Downs Colaizzo’s screenplay does hit plenty of familiar beats and territory of rom coms and inspiration sports movies but gets by on earnest charm that is undeniably warm and effective. While Brittany is able to morph into a runner and overcome the physical obstacles of change, she still struggles with changing inside, mainly letting people into her life, instead of pushing them away after being repeatedly let down in life before. We’ve seen these themes play out before but Downs Colaizzo pens it all in a way that sets up his talented cast for success.

Brittany Runs a Marathon still - Brittany, Catherine, and Seth

Jillian Bell’s career has slowly been on the rise this decade (essentially breaking onto the scene with 22 Jump Street) and it’s safe to say that this is the role that will see her break out as a talented actor in a big way. She is fully capable of steering the ship as the lead, flashing some comedic brilliance while also able to shift gears in the more demanding dramatic moments. Ambudkar, Watkins, and Stock are all equally likable and charming in their supporting roles, each given ample opportunities to be as sincere as they are hilarious. Then there’s also the equally warm, although rather underused supporting turns from Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Good Boys) and Kate Arrington as Brittany’s brother-in-law Demetrius and sister Cici in Philadelphia.

There are some moments where you do get the sense that this is Colaizzo’s debut, as some of the dramatic moments don’t work in a totally authentic way and feel like a necessary next step to get to the next inevitable change for Brittany, with the middle section suffering a bit when she is in-between places. Even though some moments feel a bit too on the nose, the moments that follow will sweep you off your feet, feeling totally inspired and wanting to get up, cheer, and maybe even run a marathon. But start with a 5K to be safe.

Rating: 7.9/10