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Review: I Feel Pretty latest tackles beauty myth from all angles

Just like in the movies, her wish comes true – at least in the sense that beauty is in the eye of th..

Just like in the movies, her wish comes true – at least in the sense that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Knocked unconscious while working out at SoulCycle, she wakes to find herself transformed from an ugly duckling into a swan. Or so she believes: from everyone else's viewpoint, she's the same as ever, though her loyal friends (Aidy Bryant and Busy Philipps) offer her the validation they have all along.

Convinced of her irresistibility, Renee now has the confidence to chase her dreams, picking up an alarmed but quickly enraptured boyfriend (Rory Scovel) and rising through the ranks at the fancy make-up company Lily LeClair (her boss is played by Michelle Williams, allowed to be funny for once as an anxious sylph who sounds like Jennifer Tilly and acts like Andy Warhol).

Any film openly concerned with physical attractiveness – who has it, who doesn't – is guaranteed to hit a nerve. While I Feel Pretty evidently views itself as progressive, a case can be made that its premise is flawed, if not downright offensive: if a star like Schumer can be presented as unattractive, what does that say about the rest of us?

Rory Scovel, left, and Amy Schumer.

Photo: Entertainment One

But this misses a couple of points. One, that any competent actor can convey a lack of glamour with the right costumes and make-up; and two, that Renee's real problem isn't her appearance but her punishingly low self-esteem.

All that said, there's plenty of room for interpretation. I Feel Pretty is plainly a message movie, but part of the fun is that we're given multiple messages to choose from. Some scenes appear to be saying that beautiful people have it as tough as anyone else – though Renee scoffs at this notion when it's proposed by her slender workout buddy (Emily Ratajkowski).

Perhaps the desire to view oneself as beautiful is a neurosis to be overcome.

Another possible implication is that if you truly believe in your own beauty, others will too. But this is likewise undercut: the primary superpower Renee gains from her refurbished self-image is the ability to stay cheerfully oblivious to the bemused responses of those around her. Setting aside the bump-on-the-head gimmick, I Feel Pretty could easily be understood as a story about mental illness, with much of Renee's extravagant behaviour – like flashing the neighbours from her apartment window – resembling textbook mania, to be followed by an inevitable slide into depression.

Michelle Williams as Avery LeClair.

Photo: Entertainment One

The film's fixation on beauty can also be seen as a disguised way of tackling the even more delicate subject of class – though the waters are muddied by the pretence that looks, wealth and sophistication always go hand in hand. Thrown into the world of high fashion, Renee maintains the aspirational vulgarity typified by her cursive name necklace and her use of phrases like “so blessed", but also her everywoman common sense, which serves as a corrective to the elitism at Lily LeClair.

Fuelled as it is by good intentions, I Feel Pretty is possibly less in tune with the zeitgeist than its creators might have hoped for. All the same, there are some remarkable moments – like the scene of Renee gazing mesmerised at her legs in hideous blue tracksuit pants, falling in love with her body for the first time.

One of the film's strengths is its ambivalence about how far we should envy her sudden, excessive self-delight. Perhaps the desire to view oneself as beautiful is, indeed, a neurosis to be overcome. But if we abandoned the idea that narcissism can be sexy, there wouldn't be much point to Hollywood.

Amy Schumer as Renee.

Photo: Entertainment One

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So, we guess this means Beyonce and Jay-Z are OK then

The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last..

The first couple of pop music took the world by surprise by dropping their first album together last weekend. As you'd expect, it's a statement.

There is arguably no couple better at controlling their own press than Beyonce and Jay-Z. When a video surfaced in 2014 showing Bey's younger sister Solange attacking her brother-in-law in an elevator, rumours of a strained marriage proliferated.

Rather than battle the tabloids, the spouses used the gossip to fuel the creation of two critically beloved, commercially successful records: Beyonce's Lemonade and Jay-Z's 4:44. And, in them, they offered just as many details about their private lives as they chose.

Beyonce and Jay-Z on stage in France for the 2014 On the Run tour.

Photo: Rob Hoffman

Now the couple have continued their domination of pop music, surprising the world last Saturday by releasing their joint album Everything Is Love, which is something of a sequel to those two solo records. Though they have collaborated for at least 15 years, this marks their first joint album, which they dropped under the name The Carters.

The record is a victory lap from a couple who have mined their relationship for universal truths and then presented them as art. It's a fierce love letter to success, to family, to blackness – but, most of all, to each other.

Artwork for the album Everything is Love by The Carters, aka Beyonce and Jay-Z.

Photo: Karl Quinn

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Lyrically, it primarily focuses on two aspects of the Carters' lives: their marriage and their success. (more…)

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Rachel Griffiths: female characters are finally getting real on screen

Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, P..

Almost a year into the #MeToo era, Rachel Griffiths believes the likes of Mystery Road, Wentworth, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Top of the Lake show that female characters are finally coming of age on Australian screens.

In a spirited speech at the launch of a new state government scheme to support more women directors in television, the actor-turned-director said it was exciting to see female characters move beyond "the typical tropes of 'likable, f—able, adorable'" to "more complex depictions of female experience" recently.

Happy to see "more complex depictions of female experience": Rachel Griffiths (left) with Leah Purcell at the launch of #SheDirects.

Photo: Louie Douvis

While she acknowledged there were male directors who created fresh and compelling women characters, Griffiths said the "male gaze" often reduced them to colouring the characters of their male counterparts.

"[They are created to] make him hot, make him authentic, make him empathetic, make him fatherly, make him conflicted, make him grieve," she said. "In the male gaze, we are so often not the gatekeepers; we're not the ferryman. Sometimes the mentor but usually only ironically, like Judi Dench's M…

"Under-written and under-observed, brought into our sexual awareness precociously and prepubescent in order to accommodate the male libido.

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"Often in television we're used by lazy writers and producers who can think of nothing more interesting this week than 'let's have her have sex with X' or 'discover she's a lesbian – for an episode'."

Griffiths, who is about to begin editing the Melbourne Cup drama Ride Like A Girl after finishing the shoot, endorsed Hollywood star Sandra Bullock's recent comment that it was time for women to "stop being polite" about gender equality. (more…)

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Rachel Maddow breaks down on air over Trump immigration policy

US television host Rachel Maddow has broken down on live air as she delivered the latest development..

US television host Rachel Maddow has broken down on live air as she delivered the latest developments in the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

Maddow, who hosts her own show on MSNBC, was reading from a breaking news release from the Associated Press that revealed government officials have been sending babies and toddlers to what are being called "tender age" shelters in the US.

The youngsters are some of the 2,300 children who have been forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border since the White House announced a zero-tolerance policy on migrant families in May.

"The AP has just broken some new news," Maddow started.

"Um, this has just come out from the Associated Press, this is incredible. Trump administration have been sending babies and other young children – oh, hold on," she said, her voice breaking.

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Maddow attempted to get through the breaking news piece one more time before moving the show over to a guest. "To at least three – three tender age shelters in South Texas. Lawyers and medical providers… I think I'm going to have to hand this off. Sorry."

Maddow took to Twitter shortly after the segment aired to say sorry to her viewers. "Again, I apologise for losing it there for a moment," she wrote. "Not the way I intended that to go, not by a mile."

She also tweeted out what she had been trying to say in her live read, writing out what was presented in the AP story. "Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the "tender age" shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis…" she wrote.

"Decades after the nations child welfare system ended the use of orphanages over concerns about the lasting trauma to children, the administration is standing up new institutions to hold Central American toddlers that the government separated from their parents." (more…)

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