Brittany Runs a Marathon Parent Guide
This is an inspiring story about change and accepting personal responsibility but it needs to wash its mouth out with soap.
Parent Movie Review
Brittany (Jillian Bell) is despondent. “I’m starting to feel like everyone’s lives are going places and I’m kind of stuck.” She’s caught in a holding pattern: she graduated from Cornell, but her planned advertising career has derailed and she’s working as a theater usher. She’s living with a roommate in a small apartment, staring balefully at her expanding body in the mirror, and trying to keep partying like an irresponsible undergrad. She hits rock bottom in a doctor’s office, trying to cadge a prescription for Adderall, only to be prescribed weight loss instead. A mountain of debt means that Brittany can’t afford a gym membership, but the sidewalk is free, so she starts running.
I have to confess my own bias here: I hate running. Watching Brittany wheeze and sweat and stagger as she starts running is an exercise in empathy. But as Brittany persists, she starts to feel the benefits (which I have never discovered) and she sets a new goal – running in the New York City Marathon.
Audiences who buy tickets for a comedy expect a happy ending, and they won’t be disappointed in Brittany Runs a Marathon. But the screenwriters deserve credit: this script doesn’t move from A to B to “happily ever after” in a direct, predictable line. Brittany struggles, unforeseen disaster strikes, and we’re never actually certain how the story is going to work out. Will Brittany get the triumph we expect or will she re-frame her idea of a happy ending?
This production also deserves credit for putting a complex main character on screen. Brittany isn’t a one note protagonist. She’s a bright, talented, empathetic woman who loves to help people and make them laugh. She can also be lazy, dishonest, and unethical. And her struggles with self-esteem can be agonizing to watch, especially when she agrees to a casual acquaintance’s proposition for a sexual act she doesn’t want to perform, simply because she doesn’t value herself enough to say no. Even as her fitness and life improve, she struggles to honor her own abilities, respect herself, and speak up for herself. In one searing moment, an erstwhile friend tells her, “Don’t throw away your fat clothes. It doesn’t matter if you keep the weight off. You’ll always be a fat girl. It’s who you are.” We spend the rest of the film watching Brittany grapple with those issues.
Fortunately, this movie runs a course paved with positive messages. The value of setting goals, working hard, persisting in the face of setbacks, helping others, and building support systems is made clear in the film. And a small act of kindness resonates throughout the movie, reminding us of the power we have to affect someone else’s life for the better.
Sadly, Brittany Runs a Marathon hits the wall when it comes to content. Profanity is excessive, with close to 70 swear words, including three dozen sexual expletives. Main characters also drink too much (sometimes becoming intoxicated), smoke marijuana, and abuse prescription drugs. None of these behaviors are glamorized, but they occur throughout the film. And the sexual content is more detailed than most parents would like. There is a fair bit of sexual innuendo and a scene where main characters have sex. There is no explicit nudity, but the man opens a condom package and the activity is obvious. These content issues are particularly unfortunate because they cloud an otherwise fine film. But, even though they prevent Brittany Runs a Marathon from winning the race, at least it carries its positive messages across the finish line.Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo. Starring Jillian Bell, Utkarsh Ambudkar, and Lil Rey Howery. Running time: 103 minutes. Theatrical release September 6, 2019. Updated September 9, 2019
Watch the trailer for Brittany Runs a Marathon
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Rating & Content Info
Why is Brittany Runs a Marathon rated R? Brittany Runs a Marathon is rated R by the MPAA for language throughout, sexuality and some drug material.
Violence: None noted.
Sexual Content: A man tries to persuade a woman to perform a sexual act on him; she initially refuses but then follows him out of the room – no physical activities are seen. A woman sees an online story about having “sex with your ex”. A character makes reference to a woman’s water breaking i.e. going into labor. The camera pans across the backsides of female runners. Characters joke about sexual tension. One man jokes about having sexual tension with a relative. Two gay men are seen in bed together in a non-sexual context: their children are with them. A group of friends discuss how often one of them is having sex. Characters joke about an erection. A main character jokes about a sexually transmitted infection. A man and woman kiss passionately; they get on his bed but she leaves before any sexual activity. A woman pulls off a man’s shirt as they kiss passionately. An unmarried man and woman have sex: there is no explicit breast or genital nudity but the activity is clear. The man leaves the bed to get a condom and opens the packaging. There is a brief glimpse of part of the side of a woman’s breast in a non-sexual context.
Profanity: There are just under 70 profanities in this movie, including three dozen sexual expletives, 16 scatological words, 9 terms of deity, five crude anatomical terms, and a smattering of other curse words and vulgar terms.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A main character tries to persuade her doctor to prescribe Adderall for her, even though she doesn’t really need it. A main character is shown smoking marijuana, taking drugs, and drinking alcohol in a variety of settings. She sometimes drinks alone to handle stress and occasionally gets drunk. A main character is throwing up after taking drugs. Other characters drink to excess and it is intimated that one has a drinking problem. A character mentions going to rehab for a heroin addiction.
Page last updated September 9, 2019
Brittany Runs a Marathon Parents' Guide
Have you ever tried to develop healthier habits? What helped you succeed or what was your biggest roadblock to success? What are some strategies that you can use to achieve those goals?
American Heart Association: How to Break Bad Habits and Change Behaviors
Psychology Today: How to Change Unhealthy Habits
Brittany struggles with self-esteem, partially based on the way she looks. Why do people judge others based on their appearance? Why do we judge ourselves based on our weight or other physical attributes? What can we do to embrace who we are instead of internalizing arbitrary social definitions of beauty?
Huffington Post: Judging People by their Appearance Is not OK.
New York Times: The Shame of Fat Shaming
Center for Young Women’s Health: Self-Esteem and Body Image
Life Coach Hub: Setting Your Own Beauty Standards
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Looking for a way to stay motivated in a running or fitness program? Try Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run. Easy to read, fun, and engaging, this will keep any wannabe runner going.
For practical help, try The Beginning Runner’s Handbook by Ian MacNeill. With plans that will help beginners find the right gear and remain injury-free, this book is a great part of any runner’s toolkit.
Trying to establish good habits and eliminate bad ones? Read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Trying to focus more on health and less on weight? Check out Harriet Brown’s Body of Truth: Change Your Life by Changing the Way You Think About Weight and Health.
Naomi Wolf’s classic, The Beauty Myth will have you challenging our society’s ideals of female beauty and the costs it imposes on women and girls.
Related home video titles:
In I Feel Pretty, Amy Schumer plays an overweight woman who hits her head and wakes up believing she’s a beautiful and capable. Nothing about her appearance has altered, but her new attitude changes her life. Isn’t It Romantic also features a protagonist who hits her head and wakes up inside a rom-com. Instead of being seen as dumpy, she’s pursued by handsome men and surrounded by movie tropes.
Toula, the protagonist of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, feels trapped in her boring life. So, she goes back to school, gets a new job, buys new clothes, updates her hair and makeup and…bingo, meets Mr. Right.
Toxic Beauty is a documentary production that examines the health costs of dangerous chemicals used in cosmetics and other beauty products. It suggests that we change society’s definitions of beauty rather than forcing women to choose between their health and being seen as beautiful.