‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’: Hilarious, Charming Film Earns Real Tears Amid Big Laughs

Sundance 2019: The film premiered in the U.S. Dramatic competition category during the festival

brittany runs a marathon
Courtesy: Sundance Institute

About the only bad thing about Tuesday’s Sundance screening of “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” writer-director Paul Downs Colaizzo’s feature debut, was the straining it took to hear dialogue over uproarious laughter during its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

Based on the real life experiences of Colaizzo’s friend and former roommate, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” follows Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell), a 27-year-old hot mess of a New Yorker who is forced to contend with her problems and try to get her s– together.

“I just wanted to create a character like Brittany that wasn’t treated like the sidekick but that was a real 3-dimensional character,” Colaizzo said during the film’s Q&A at the Marc theater in Park City. “I wanted the audience to see that she wasn’t the butt of the joke but in on the humor to show how she uses that humor to cover up her vulnerabilities.”

Brittany’s life isn’t exactly in tip top shape. Her friends call her the funniest person they know — and she is hilarious — but she also drinks too much, parties too much, has too little money, ignores her health and takes regular knocks to her self esteem. “I just feel like everyone is doing something with their lives but me,” she says at one point to her roommate, a self-absorbed and unkind aspiring influencer.

But one day, as Brittany tries to convince a Yelp-recommended doctor to prescribe her Adderall, she’s diagnosed with several potentially-serious health issues: elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, obesity. Brittany decides to run a block in an attempt to get healthier. Then she runs two, and the more she runs; the more she seems to get her life in order. Brittany eventually takes that all the way to running the New York City marathon.

We won’t spoil the rest but suffice to say “Brittany Runs a Marathon” isn’t just a fun film packed with jokes and quips. It also manages to slip more than a few real truths into the comedy, not least of which because Brittany’s life is full of struggles and anxieties familiar to anyone who is — or remembers being —  a 20-something trying to figure out your life. Particularly for those who did it in New York.

Thanks to the title character there’s plenty of quick wit and one liners. But the film is also a charming, authentic exploration of a young woman attempting to take control of her life that even pulled a few tears out of a Sundance audience that was all-in on the film from the moment it began — with Bell’s Brittany hitting the snooze at 12 in the afternoon following another late night out.

“I fell in love with Brittany and I felt really really honored to play her,” Bell added. And, while she wore some prosthetics and a body suit for some of the shooting, Bell said she trained for four months for the role and wanted to go on the physical journey the real Brittany experienced.

“I wanted to take it upon myself, they didn’t ask me to me to do it,” Bell said. “I wanted to do the physical journey of Brittany. I’d done the mental journey, so I already knew that very well.”

“Brittany Runs a Marathon” is currently screening in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance 2019.