"It feels so hurtful": The true story behind the unmissable new movie Brittany Runs a Marathon.

A small moment on a couch in New York City in 2011 ended up changing Brittany O’Neill’s life.

Like so many people before her, Brittany felt as though her life had slipped through her fingers and was now spinning around her in an endless dismal loop of dead-end jobs and binge drinking sessions that left her feeling exhausted and unhealthy.

In order to pull herself out of the funk, she decided to take up running and the result was a few laps around the block culminating in her training for a marathon and becoming part of an entirely new community.

Of course, no real story is ever as easy as clicking your fingers and willing yourself into a brand new life. This is why the difficult slog faced by Brittany O’Neill can now be seen playing out across the big screen in the new movie Brittany Runs a Marathon.

Listen to Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik tall to Jillian Bell about Brittany Runs a Marathon on The Spill, along with the other top pop culture stories of the day.

Sitting on that couch with Brittany that night was her roommate Paul Downs Colaizzo, the writer and director of Brittany Runs a Marathon who went on to use his housemate’s incredible story as the inspiration for a film about body image and it’s link to self-worth.

Brittany Runs a Marathon stars comedic powerhouse Jillian Bell (known for films like 22 Jump Street and Rough Night) as Brittany Forglar, a 28-year-old working in New York City in a dead-end job as a greeter at an off-Broadway theatre and living with her selfish friend Gretchen (Alice Lee), a teacher’s assistant who craves social media fame.

When Brittany, who is a heavy drinker and abuses Adderall, visits a new doctor to score an extra prescription she is shamed over her weight. She then decides to get her body moving and since the gym is out of her price range she takes up running, which leads to a new group of friends and a burning desire to complete the New York City Marathon.

By just reading the synopsis of the film it’s easy to assume that Brittany Runs a Marathon is a story championing the merits of weight loss and promoting the idea that changing your body will also change your life.

Watch the trailer for Brittany Runs a Marathon below. Post continues after video.


But in reality, it is a comedy-drama that will have you laughing at its wickedly funny one-liners and also watching in sober silence as the most destructive moments of self-doubt bubble up to the surface through Jillian Bell’s spot-on performance.

In fact, it was conversations with the real Brittany that allowed Jillian to see both the pain and the joy in the story she was telling, and she was able to bring her own lived experience to the screen during filming.

“The movie is inspired by a true story and in the movie, Brittany is a woman in her late 20s who is feeling stuck in her own life because she feels she has not done anything ‘big’,” Jillian Bell told Mamamia. “So she sets the goal of just running around the block and then she sets an even bigger goal of running the New York City Marathon and this is the story of her journey throughout that.

“I thought there was something interesting in the pain and the joy of Brittany’s story when I was first speaking to her and how we use humour to deflect, all because we think someone will say something crushing.

“I use comedy a lot and most of the time it’s in a light way but sometimes it’s because you’re trying to beat someone to the punch. A lot of the issues Brittany has with her body, I really related to that myself.”

Jillian Bell and Brittany O'Neill at the premiere of Brittany Runs A Marathon. Source: Getty.

There are a number of scenes in Brittany Runs a Marathon that captures how so many people, women in particular, walk through the world when their bodies are a source of constant critique.

In particular, the scene in the doctor's office, when he's more interested in passing judgment on her weight than listening to her concerns, is one that many women have lived through themselves.

“I’ve been to the doctor before and felt just like that, so has my sister and so have friends of mine. We've all been to the doctor and had them make a comment on our weight," Jillian Bell told Mamamia. "It feels hurtful, it feels like they are targeting something specifically about you and saying something harsh.

There’s also a difference between a doctor saying something about your health and a friend in your life saying ‘Oh, I think you’d look better at this weight’. We pretty much get through everything related to weight in this movie.

"I feel like I don’t see a lot of toxic friendships dealt with in this way and I feel like it’s interesting sometimes how similar Brittany and Gretchen are in different parts of the film. It's that idea of having someone in your life who might not be rooting for you. They see that you’re trying to improve your life and that makes them uncomfortable, that they don’t know where the friendship will go."

While Brittany Runs a Marathon is not always an easy movie to watch, it is an important one not to be missed.

Brittany Runs a Marathon is in cinemas now and it will be available to watch on Amazon Prime on November 22, 2019.

Sign up for our weekly "TV and Movies" newsletter. Every week, our Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik gives you a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews.