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Lovely and Amazing (R)
Lion’s Gate
Official Site
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Producers: Anthony Bregman, Ted Hope, Eric D’Arbeloff
Written by: Nicole Holofcener
Cast: Catherine Keener, James LeGros, Aunjunae Ellis, Brenda Blethyn, Dermot Mulroney, Emily Mortimer, Raven Goodwin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Clark Gregg
Rating: out of 5

A fellow reviewer told me tonight that he’d seen this movie and it was okay, just so-so. If I’d been standing next to him, I think I might have hit him. I watched Lovely And Amazing twice. But to be fair, and to avoid assault charges, I must note that the second time I watched it, the male who watched with me remarked, “well, but nothing happened.” This may be the one of those movies that simply does not translate well across gender lines.

It’s been five years since Nicole Holofcener’s little stunner , Walking And Talking, came out. That tale of two young women’s lifelong friendship, also starring Catherine Keener as a needy mess of a woman, examined the mental and emotional hyperactivity with which we can sometimes sabotage our own happiness. In Lovely And Amazing, Holofcener takes that conceit a step further, presenting us with the women of the Marks family, characters who seem to live in a state of perpetual regret for whatever they just said.

Michelle’s (Keener) only joy is her daughter. She has a marriage full of those conversations where it is impossible to say anything right and delusions of an art career, a life so fraught with constant rejections that she copes by telling everyone to “fuck off.” Sister Elizabeth ( Mortimer), despite a nice, if oppressively logical, boyfriend ( LeGros) and an up-and-coming movie career, is plagued by incessant insecurities about her sex appeal. Anni ( Goodwin), their much-younger adopted sister, harrows the feelings of them all with her baldly stated desire for the straight hair and white skin they possess. Jane ( Blethyn), their mother, has liposuction, and it’s her cosmetic surgery that is the catalyst for a story that appears to be leading to a train wreck, albeit one of pathetic proportions.

Above all, the concern here is about what is desirable, and the movie is full of females “improving” themselves. Jane wants to lose 10 pounds of fat to look better, so she’ll feel better about herself. Elizabeth frets over her looks and the need to look sexy on screen to such an extent that she gets an acquaintance to critique her naked body. Anni gets her hair straightened in pursuit of the attractions of whiteness. And while Michelle is the only one not making pronouncements about her appearance, he lengths she goes to to be desired are the most desperate.

Yes, as the world goes, these problems are little problems. Yes, few men devote any time to contemplation of their jiggly upper arms. More than a few females will know exactly where these women are coming from. The Markses are perfectly aware of their foibles. They as so needy, so insecure and annoying, that it’s no wonder their men are fleeing. Though Jane seems pretty cool as a mother, who knows why the senior Mr. Marks flew the coop? It is to Holofcener’s credit that, in their to-die-for houses full of self-fulfilling neuroses, these women are such sympathetic characters, largely because of their fierce and loving sympathies for each other.

There are flaws. Elizabeth and Anni both were given quirks that threaten to unbalance the story at times. And here, even more than in Walking And Talking, we once again have the detached presentation of males as odd little satellites of women. But Lovely And Amazing is a light pleasure, tailored for the female audience, right down to the chick-pleasing music by singer-songwriter Deb Talan.

—Roxanne Bogucka


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