Sundance 2019: Brittany Runs A Marathon

Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs A Marathon by Paul Downs Colaizzo, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Jon Pack.

Jillian Bell’s performance in the inspirational Brittany Runs A Marathon shows that the improv comedian is ready to take on the role of being a leading actress.

A native of Pennsylvania, Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) relocated to New Year but life had something else in mind for her.  When we first meet her, she’s working at a theater where she tries to liven up the joint through her sense of humor.  The only problem with this is that her boss doesn’t see eye to eye.  A trip to Doctor Falloway’s (Patch Darragh) office shows that Brittany needs to lower her BMI.   A healthy BMI is 25 but Brittany’s is around 31-32.

It may take some time but she gathers up the courage to start exercising.  She sets goals for herself that are easier said than done.  When neighbor Catherine (Michaela Watkins) persuades her to join a running group, Brittany gets set on the right course.  It’s here where she meets Seth (Micah Stock) and the trio set a goal of running the prestigious New York City Marathon together.  Training with Catherine and Seth is way better than hanging around the bad influence that is Gretchen (Alice Lee).

“We don’t have to win it–we just have to finish it,” Catherine tells Brittany with regards to the NYC Marathon.

In the meantime, Brittany starts looking for a job and ends up as a house sitter/dog sitter.  It’s while working here that she meets nighttime guy Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar).  As this friendship blooms into a will-they-or-won’t they, Brittany has sister Cici (Kate Arrington) and brother-in-law Demetrius (Lil Rel Howrey) to turn to for support

While the film does fall into some predictable cliche material for a comedy, it doesn’t take a way from the film as a whole.  We’re invested in Brittany not just as a character but as a human.  It’s still amazing to see the effort that Bell puts into Brittany as a character.  It’s almost as if the woman at the beginning and end are two very different people.  One can tell just how much work that Brittany puts into making these changes.  Even if they were seemingly impossible, she has the faith to persevere.

Bell absolutely dominates the film.  She was due for a breakout leading performance.  Brittany Runs A Marathon gives her such a performance.  It’s such a great role at that!

With a cast full of improv comedians, this is a film that could have gone in any conceivable direction with regards to the comedy.  There’s a lot of comedic moments–don’t get me wrong–but this is a film that aims for sweet, sentimental, and inspirational.  There’s so much heart in Paul Downs Colaizzo’s film–which also features the real Brittany at the end.  You can’t help but feel for her especially in the early on when she knows she has to make changes in her life.

Brittany Runs A Marathon is the sweet, sentimental, and inspirational comedy that we didn’t even know we needed.

CAST:  Jillian Bell, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Michaela Watkins, Lil Rel Howrey, Micah Stock, Mickey Day, Alice Lee

Brittany Runs A Marathon held its world premiere during the 2019 Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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