Amy Schumer tells me I’m going to make her cry — and sure enough, a few seconds later she starts to tear up.
In a good way. I promise.
We’ll get back to the tears eventually, but first we need the opening act and the setup.
In the new comedy “I Feel Pretty” (opening Friday), Schumer plays Renee, a smart and funny and insecure young woman living in New York City but stuck in second gear, as a certain sitcom theme once put it. But then, through the miracle of a Plot Device, Renee wakes up from a nasty fall believing she is supermodel smokin’ hot — and she gains a newfound confidence in her personal and professional life.
Schumer and Aidy Bryant (“Saturday Night Live”), who plays one of Renee’s best friends in the movie, were recently in Chicago, and we sat down for a conversation.
“This movie is about a woman who really struggles with her self-esteem, and is just feeling invisible, and thinks that’s what she deserves,” says Schumer.
“And then she falls off her bike at SoulCycle after making a wish to be beautiful, and all of a sudden when she looks in the mirror she sees a supermodel. And she starts living her life that way.
“She’s the product of believing all the marketing. … She feels invisible. And I can understand that, I can relate to that character. …
“She has a great life, she’s just not seeing it.”
When the trailer was released, a number of commentators took issue with what they perceived to be the film’s message. (Is it fair to criticize a movie based on a two-minute advertising trailer? Of course not. That didn’t stop people.)
“Amy Schumer’s latest ‘body positive’ film ‘I Feel Pretty’ seems so offensive and morbid it’s frankly exhausting,” began a piece in the Independent.
“The movie isn’t saying I’m a homely troll,” says Schumer. “It’s about a woman who struggles with self-esteem. Almost everyone feels that way sometimes — men and women. It’s about that voice in your head when you just want to hide. That backlash kind of made sense but it also was about people projecting what their experience has been. … But I do understand the backlash.”
Says Bryant: “To me, the backlash is about what people expect the movie to be [glorifying superficial beauty]. It’s painful to me that that’s the expectation. I’ve heard people say, ‘How can they have Amy be the lead of this movie when she had a plus-sized woman right next to her?’
“So what are we saying? That I’m ugly enough, out of the norm enough, that I should have told this story?”
Schumer: “Also, there are a lot of people who are like, ‘We want our movie stars to look like classic movie stars,’ and that’s fine because they can go see those movies, but we have a sneaking suspicion that people also want to see movies with people that look like them.”
As Schumer’s career skyrocketed from steadily working stand-up to television comedy star to leads in feature film, she has been the subject of intense online criticism, whether it was about her politics or her looks.
“Some people do have a really hard time with women who are doing well. Women who like themselves and feel good — that’s the most threatening thing in their world,” says Schumer.
Bryant, a Columbia College and Second City alum, has been on “Saturday Night Live” since 2012, but thanks to the contentious 2016 presidential campaign and of course the presidency of Donald Trump, virtually every new episode becomes an instant hot topic.
“The political stuff is not my love and passion,” says Bryant, whose repertoire of characters now includes Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“I came from the background of doing characters. My favorite part of ‘SNL’ has always been the silly, dumb stuff that we get to do …
“But last year, the show became so important to people on the street. [All this crazy stuff] was happening for us in real time, just like for everyone else — but for us it was happening during table reads, rehearsals. We have to constantly update.”
Oh yes. The tears. I ask Schumer what is the one quality in Bryant she wishes she had more of.
“I’m going to cry talking about her,” says Schumer. Wiping away the tears, she continues: “It’s that she can’t help but do what’s right. She’s a fighter for justice. She never does the easy thing.”
Bryant, on Schumer: “There are so many things about Amy, so many things I learned from her, but if I had to truly boil it down to one thing: She has an incredible sense of knowing what she wants to do. She has inspired me to take control of my own destiny.”