February 2, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Sundance Film Festival Reviews: “Brittany Runs A Marathon” & “Big Time Adolescence”


BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON (Amazon):  Paul Downs Colaizzo, previously a playwright, makes a remarkably assured film writing/directing debut with Brittany Runs a Marathon, which features a breakout star performance by Jillian Bell.  The story is based on Colaizzo’s own friend, and revolves around an overweight woman who decides to remake her life physically and socially, setting out with increasing seriousness to run in and complete a NY Marathon.  There’s not a lot of suspense here–just read the title–but Colaizzo and Bell make Brittany a funny and moving character who’s easy to root for.  Her prickly, halting friendships with Catherine (Michaela Watkins), Seth (Micah Stock) and Jerm (Utkarsh Ambudkar) are also well-drawn, as is her relationship with her paternal-substitute brother-in-law (Lil Rel Howery).  There are a lot of laughs in Brittany, and Bell hits every punchline where it lives, but Colaizzo’s script is also notable for treating Brittany with empathy yet not sentimentality.  She’s a jerk sometimes, who lashes out and can be blind to the feelings of others, and that humanity makes her steps forward feel earned.  (Adding a romcom dimension to the film may have been one trope too far, however charming some of that material is.)  Colaizzo didn’t take it easy on himself with his first film:  the events of Brittany cover more than a calendar year, with 4 seasons of NY weather, and the climax was shot during an actual NY Marathon, not to mention structuring the production around Bell’s actual weight loss.  The budget can’t have been much.  Nevertheless, Brittany looks sleek (the cinematography is by Seamus Tierney, and the production design by Erin Magill), and Casey Brooks’s editing paces the story smoothly.   With a smart marketing campaign that seeks out receptive audiences, Amazon may more than justify their $14M investment in Brittany.

BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE (no distrib):  For viewers accustomed to seeing Pete Davidson break character and giggle through many of his SNL sketches, the fact that he sustains a character throughout Big Time Adolescence and even suggests a serious side may be the biggest reward of the movie.  (Before the festival was over, it was announced that Davidson will be making the leap to a Judd Apatow star vehicle for his next film.)  Jason Orley’s film doesn’t have all that much substance, although it works well enough while it’s unreeling.  The lead character is Mo (the likable Griffin Gluck), a high-school student whose only real friend is Zeke (Davidson), a slacker in his mid-twenties who used to be the boyfriend of Mo’s sister’s (Sydney Sweeney).  They broke up years earlier (more or less), but Mo has only become closer to Zeke, who’s his buddy and also unfortunately his inspiration.  That leads Mo to act unwisely, including selling some of Zeke’s drugs at parties.  Orley’s film sets up Zeke and Mo’s respectable dad (Jon Cryer) as competing role models for Mo, and naturally by the end Mo, and even Zeke, realize it’s time to grow up.  (Of course there’s also a bright, cute girl to whom Mo has to prove himself.)  Davidson gets lots of stoner jokes to deliver, but to his credit he also proves himself capable of expressing Zeke’s own regrets and frustrations.  The filmmaking here mostly serves to take Adolescence from one point to the next, but Orley is good with the actors, and even though the conclusion is predictable, the characters don’t wear out their welcome.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."