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.