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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Big Race in the Big Apple

Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Fat 28-year-old Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is advised by her physician Dr. Fallo­way (Patch Darragh) to lose some serious weight. Lacking the financial resources for gym member­ship she takes to running on the streets of New York—“it's free.” Her upstairs neighbor Catherine “Money Bags Martha” (Michaela Watkins) picks her up to join a running group where she makes new friends and sets an ambitious goal of running in the New York Marathon. Her life shifts around and she matures as she tries to reach that goal.


“Brittany Runs” is not about losing weight per se but about taking responsibility. When we first encounter a person, the three things that stand out about him or her are: sex, race, and body type. This movie illustrates the bad social form in leading conversations with how fat she is. She knows she's fat. She doesn't need to be told.

Not so with a doctor. It is a physician's responsibility to encourage a healthy weight. Brittany's first attempts at running burden her with dodging other pedestrians in the way. Other things being equal it is the skinny person who will do the more maneuvering having less inertia to over­come: one reason people aren't too keen about encountering a corpulent character.

Brittany's always skinny roommate/friend Gretchen (Alice Lee) when asked if she runs, replies that every­body runs if she's in a hurry to get some­where. Brittany does a daily (unsuccessful) dash to catch the subway for work. If she were in better shape, she wouldn't be late every day for her theater office job. Her exasperated boss points out that her tardiness makes harder work for others. At her new job Brittany will complain to her slacker comrade Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar) that when he's too lazy to do any work, it makes more work for her. The movie takes great pains to develop the concept that there are valid reasons people don't like fat women, how­ever polite they may be in not mentioning it to them.

happy familyThen it moves on to the concept of race. Brittany was “born and raised in Philly” the city of brotherly love. Penn­syl­vania was settled by the Quakers who were—and still are—fanatics about social equality, disregarding class barriers. They were America's first abolition­ists. Brittany's sister Cici (Kate Arrington) married an “awesome” black man Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery.) When their parents were no longer in the picture, her sister's husband raised her “like my step­dad.” He's fore­gone his own college aspirations so he could put the white girl (Brittany) through college. Can't afford to do it for his own (black) children either. But he has the empty frame mounted on his wall; it was meant to hold his college diploma that he never got. I think if you would ask black people, they would tell you that the frame­work for racial equality is there; it just hasn't been implemented yet. How­ever, we are good at calling them by the right words, at least not by the wrong word. Demetrius indeed was “awesome” in his exercise of responsibility, how­ever crude his uneducated speech.

WelcomeSexual responsibility gets a little more complicated, old movies having never prepared us for same-sex marriage. Marriage of old has had both civil and religious aspects. The secular state necessarily avoids religion. The Puritans who settled Massachusetts had a view about marriage unique among the Protestants. Wanting to distance them­selves from heavily ceremonious Catholicism, they held that marriage was a civil institution only, in which Christians were to live out the grace of God. There­fore it was relatively easy for New England culturally influenced by the Puritans to legalize same-sex marriage having no religious definition to inter­fere with it; New York and Washington DC followed suit in their legislatures. In this gay-friendly environment, Brittany's out of shape gay running partner Seth (Micah Stock) has a “husband” (and a son) who is immediately accepted.

The other states across the country, all running in the marathon, did not accept a marriage redefinition except as it was imposed on them by the courts. Quoting from the “Catholic Sentinel” of July 3, 2015 (15):

The main opinion recognized in several places the role of religious beliefs in the questions surrounding same-sex marriage. Kennedy said toward the conclusion of his 28-page opinion that “it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

The First Amendment ensures protection for religious organizations and individuals as they seek to teach the principles “that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths,” he continued, and to “their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.”

It's a given that for Christians marriage is biblically defined as being between a man and a woman. (Matt. 19:4-5) “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” Jern is impossible to peg, but at one point he insists he doesn't want to continue in sex out­side of (hetero) wed­lock. He would be representative of “those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons” wherever he's coming from.

Brittany is a house sitter cum dog watcher by day and Jern is wed to that position being the night shift house sitter and dog watcher. The owners are away. In the movie the night is wed to the day, giving the dogs both a mommy and a daddy. Jern, how­ever, camps out in the house during the day, and then Brittany does the same at night, joining two day shifts and two night shifts, which is not what the owners had in mind. When they return they call them a bad name. In this implicit allegory the same-sex couple invites verbal censure as per Kennedy allowing people to advocate that “same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

Production Values

“Brittany Runs a Marathon” (2019) was written and directed by Paul Colaizzo. It stars Jillian Bell, Alice Lee, and Utkarsh Ambudkar. Bell as Brittany was the core character but each of the talented support cast enhanced her role. It was raw New York talent from some artistic venue imported to a movie.

MPAA rated it R for language throughout, sexuality and some drug material. The acting was faultless, but it seemed to have been shot on substandard film stock. An excessive amount of pink was used in places, too. It was based on a true story of a real Brittany (Brittany O'Neill) who was the writer/director's friend. I think the many closeups reflect his sympathy for her more than the desire of an audience to probe the inner workings of a fat girl. There's a reason why the Holly­wood stars are beautiful who are stared at through­out a film. The real Brittany, pictured at the very end, was more svelte than the movie version of her, probably to help fat girls in the audience set realistic expectations.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This was a pleasant, mildly humorous popcorn movie that can appeal to an audience with modest expectations, not to have their world rocked or be provided with an object for a crush. I liked it, but then I'm easy to please.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: As a last resort. Suspense: Predictable. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.