We Are All Going Through Stuff: ‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’ of Change


Where are all the party girls? Why are they not coming out to complain about how poorly and negatively they are portrayed in various movies? Speaking as a reformed party girl myself, I take a line from the movie Brittany Runs a Marathon, “We are all going through stuff.” This sentence echoes a conversation I had with a few friends out to lunch and my biggest take away from the movie.  Side-splittingly witty and outlandishly clever the movie tackles many floating ideas of change.

Floating Ideas of Change

Change around self-value, toxic friends, people who want to help and managing judgments from others. The problem comes when we start to poke holes in the floating ideas of change, we begin to sink it with criticism.  This movie simply starts those conversations.  It is up to the viewers to get inspired to share their various sorts of “marathons.” Jillian Bell’s character Brittany starts her marathon of self-value while at the doctors after being told she is at an unhealthy weight.  Who runs in our family? Besides my husband, my family history of neurodegenerative diseases. I am empathetic to how health affects the ability to do even basic things after a while.  As children, my brother and I ran away from the chancla, Spanish for slipper, aka my mother’s shoe.  Running, therefore, would be the farthest thing from my mind as a form of life change but I was so curious as to how it became hers. 


A theme from the movie I strongly connected with, she was told or made to feel she had no value because she didn’t fit the mold.  This floating idea that if you don’t look or act a way you have little value.  An earlier time I was told I had little value was on my 12th birthday.  Former classmates chanted slut around me at recess.  My first ‘marathon’ was more like a frantic sprint of a fleeing gazelle down the block home. I climbed up my backyard treehouse hid in hysterics before the Vice Principal came in her car.  Brittany’s other marathon was the struggle to see herself differently.  She had to find her balance of caring and then to pretend to not care what others think.  To have hope for change even when she didn’t see a change in herself or reach her desired goal in time.

Toxic Friendships

Some of Brittany’s friendships faded and there didn’t need to be extra negativity in the breakup but, there also didn’t need to be a forced connection.  Especially when Brittany’s friend played by Alice Lee, made it easy to forget the friendship.  Sometimes, some people will only want to be your friend if they feel your friendship means they feel better about their lives.  My 12-year-old humiliating experience prepared me for a greater one that happened on my wedding day from a different group of friends.  So, I know a thing or two about starting over and finding your value after it’s been chipped away.  It will be harder to find your value if you have toxic friends around.  Maybe they aren’t so toxic individually but collectively.  Maybe the way you acted with them was the toxic part.

That is what Brittany was learning could she be different with or without them, would they support or mock this new her?  It is hard when dynamics change.  Seeing someone differently may mean we begin to start seeing ourselves differently.  It may feel uncomfortable to see ourselves differently in someone else’s journey.  Even more uncomfortable when the other person is ready for change and we are not.  Besides not being ready for the change we never know when this has us changing more than one area of our lives.

Letting People In & Letting Go of Judgments

Which leads me to the ever-amazing Catherine played by Michaela Watkins.  I am between the ages of these characters so I connected with both.  Catherine was shunned by Brittany in the beginning for appearing to have it all.  She attempted vulnerability to try to connect to Brittany and shared her challenges.  Instead of connection, Catherine was further shunned because she “worked” hard at getting her life on track. When the track Micheala was on was just at mile marker 10 while Brittany was at mile 2.  Catherine’s line, “We are all going through stuff,” was said perfectly, not flippantly.  Often people say that, and it is said to hold the value that what they are going through is more important.  Catherines’ warm acceptance said it as if she had said what I say in therapy, “You are welcome here, join the rest of us who feel bad or want to feel our best and want to work on it.”

Life is in the Making

Paul Colaizzo the director, shared a surprising tidbit that they filmed this movie with the NYC Marathon three years ago.  Some people generously helped Jillian out as they thought she was really struggling. She had to graciously decline, pretend to be okay and walk back to shoot scenes.  They had to reshoot the finishing scenes the next day with extra cups they brought.  The fact that movies take a long time from start to finish should also be a gentle reminder when we wonder why growth isn’t moving fast enough. Movies such as this take 3 years or more and your life can be entire decades in the making.

Could this movie have discussed more how Brittany took better self-care with physical therapy after her injury?  More specifically, how she worked on her mental therapy after lashing out, humiliating strangers/family, and avoiding several months in attempts from her good friends.  Yes to all of that, but that may have not been her route of support.  The truth is NOT everyone who could use the help asks for it or takes it.  Not everyone who starts on the journey of self-discovery or improvement stays on it.  Not everyone’s methods are to lead as the one definition rather an example of one route.

Unconventional Methods

Finally, an onscreen relationship that didn’t push the relationship but rather a hilarious bird hoodie.  The dynamic banter between Jern played by Utkarsh Ambudkar and Brittany will keep you entertained on what is the next stupid, funny, thing that will come out of his mouth.  What many in society may deem as an unconventional method for problem-solving their life, a marathon.  That is what many of us are doing in life is finding conventional or unconventional ways to manage problems.  Methods we are willing to use that fit our lifestyles; they won’t fit everyone else’s.  Especially because transformations are temporary, they are cyclical of evolving and plateauing.  Jillian Bell at the Q & A answered how she overcomes challenges and it was by “planting new seeds.”  Whether your review is good or bad hopefully it too will plant new growth of conversations and topics in your life.

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    Posted October 18, 2019 6:41 am


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