Amidst all of the highs I've experienced in my 20s so far, there are always plenty of lows that just seem to emphasize my own insecurities and worries. Everybody but me seems to have their lives together, my romantic prospects are a bust, and no matter how carefully I follow that Pinterest tutorial, my DIY romper is a total disaster. While there's so much pressure to view your 20s as a perfect time, there is very little out there that strongly captures the insecurity of this age range and says, "Hey, you're not alone." Luckily, the writers behind the new Amy Schumer comedy I Feel Pretty have finally encapsulated what it means to live out the insecure feelings of your 20s. Elite Daily sat down with I Feel Pretty's screenwriters and directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein and star Busy Philipps to discuss the universality of insecurity at this stage of life.
Hitting theaters on Friday, April 20, I Feel Pretty stars Schumer as Renee, a woman struggling to love herself as she balances a dead-end job and bartenders regularly ignoring her when she's out with her friends. She longs to feel beautiful, and after she hits her head in an intense SoulCycle class, Renee believes that she has magically transformed into a gorgeous woman. However, her friends and the audience see Renee as she has always looked, suggesting that she was always her best self but needed the self-confidence to understand that. With her self-esteem now flying through the roof, Renee is inspired to chase down her dream job and shamelessly pursue a cute guy.
For screenwriters Kohn and Silverstein, whose previous partnerships include writing Never Been Kissed, He's Just Not That Into You, and The Vow, co-directing the project as well was non-negotiable. Kohn explains about the script, "This was something that we just decided we wanted to do for us. We put a few months aside from doing the work we normally do as screenwriters knowing that we wanted to write something for us to direct... we were a package deal. If someone didn’t want us to direct it, then we were not going to sell that script."
Co-directing also allowed for the duo to properly convey how they wanted to capture Renee's "transformation" on film. We never know what Renee personally sees in the mirror after she hits her head, allowing for everyone to consider their own insecurities in that moment.
Everyone has their weaknesses.
"It doesn’t necessarily have to be about looks," Silverstein says. "People look in the mirror and it’s metaphoric for just how you see yourself... everyone has their weaknesses and so by not showing Renee’s idealized version of herself we allow the audience to sort of project their own weaknesses that they feel about themselves onto that."
While the film's broader message of facing personal insecurities appeals to audiences of all ages, I Feel Pretty especially resonates with viewers in their 20s. Pre-head injury, Renee struggles with getting dates and doesn't feel pretty enough to receive a guy's attention (same, girl). She is also surrounded by friends who are fairly content in how they look, paralleling those friends we all have who seem remarkably happy with who they are even at such a young age.
Meanwhile, love interest Ethan (Rory Scovel) doesn't fit into his hyper-masculine work environment and also struggles with his own body image, presenting the often unseen view of a 20-something-year-old guy's physical insecurities. Other characters also address their own self-conscious flaws, such as a high-pitched voice and enviable financial status, which Kohn and Silverstein purposely included.
"I think it was important for us that we acknowledge that everyone — no matter how beautiful or how successful — no one has just got self-esteem licked," Kohn says. "Whatever it is, everyone has it, so we just kind of felt that was just another way to inform that it’s universal."
For Philipps, who plays one of Renee's best friends Jane, Ethan's struggle to fit in captured her own experience in her 20s. "I relate to his character a lot and his insecurity about not fitting in with the guys at work... I feel like I was like, ‘Do I fit in with the people I work with, did people like me?'" Philipps says. "[Now] I feel like I’m more maybe like my own character in the film...just comfortable in my skin and comfortable being a good friend."
Along with its focus on a young person's self-esteem, I Feel Pretty captures how female friendships are subject to changes in this particular decade of life. Every girl knows that, as much as you love your friends, there are often moments when it's a little difficult to love them. Jane and Renee's other BFF, Vivian, face this scenario when Renee's newfound confidence goes to her head, creating a brief fallout that felt so realistic that I realized I've rarely seen it so well-captured in film.
You can't give up on your friends!
"My girlfriends are very important to me and I think one of the things that is important in female friendships is that your friends are going to go through phases that sometimes you don’t even understand what’s happening with them," Philipps says. "But you have to just stick it out, you can’t give up on your friends! That’s to me the overarching thing about these girls and their friendship in the film — they don’t give up on their friend, even though she’s clearly going through some delusional moment... I think that that is so important to remember in real-life female friendships... your friends are going to go through phases that are annoying, and just stick it out, it’s worth it."
In addition to hitting bumps in her closest friendships, initially sizing herself up next to others is a recognizable trait of Renee's that anyone in their 20s can relate to. Kohn saw much of her own young self in Renee, saying, "I want to stress that it’s not because I’m like a hideous monster, nor is Renee. She’s an attractive woman. It’s because a lot of times when you go... into a bar... and everyone looks a little better or tried a little harder and they know I’m just not in the right style, you start to second-guess yourself and as soon as you do that, that’s what you put out and that’s sometimes what you get back."
If inspirational movie endings are your kryptonite, you may shed a tear or two at the end of I Feel Pretty, which essentially reassured me that the intense insecurity of your 20s won't last forever. While Kohn and Silverstein want viewers to understand that we can help one another reach high self-esteem, Philipps says that anyone can reach their full potential once they embrace confidence, honoring the spirit of Renee's journey throughout I Feel Pretty.
If you believe in yourself, you can achieve whatever it is that your goals are.
"I think that being true to yourself, people really respond to that and I think that that’s clearly one of the messages in the film," Philipps says. "People respond so strongly to confidence and when they feel someone is being real... If you believe in yourself, you can achieve whatever it is that your goals are. That’s the truth — whatever you want to do, you can do it. You just have to really believe in yourself and make it happen... You don’t have to look a certain way, you don’t have to dress a certain way, you don’t have to present yourself in a certain way except for as yourself and with confidence."
For those young 20-somethings feeling lost at their office or stuck in the shuffle at the bar, I Feel Pretty tackles so many common insecurities that it isn't difficult to find an insanely relatable character. While we probably can't hit our heads to spur on amazing self-confidence like Renee did, watching I Feel Pretty and its exploration of self-esteem may help.
I Feel Pretty is in theaters beginning Friday, April 20.