Movie Review: Lovely & Amazing

By Erik Petersen
Movie Magazine International
“Lovely & Amazing” was directed and written by Nicole Holofcener, who’s best known for her film “Walking and Talking” which she also wrote and directed. Her latest film covers much of the same territory as the earlier one but the characters are slightly older and a little sadder.

The film relies on the actors to carry the action and for the most part they’re up to it. Catherine Keener plays the eldest daughter and lead, Michelle. Probably best known for her performance in “Being John Malkovich” she works familiar territory here as a dissatisfied, lazy and terminally unhappy woman, serving up sarcasm by the bushel full. Calling herself honest, she never misses an opportunity to deflate her mother’s fantasies or needle her insecure sister. When Annie, the adopted sister remarks that Michelle doesn’t like her, she’s told that no, Michelle doesn’t like herself.

Emily Mortimer plays Elizabeth Marks, the younger of the two sisters and the good daughter. She’s an actress who’s struggling to bear the weight of the daily rejection she faces as she auditions for various film roles. Along the way she meets Kevin McCabe, a movie star and would be paramour, played by Dermot Mulroney. Frankly I never bought his depiction of the vapid movie star; it seemed too much like a take on what a movie star is supposed to act like, instead of a real person.

In a memorable scene Elizabeth begs Kevin to tell her in detail everything that’s wrong with her appearance. It’s painful to watch as he dissects her body, the way casting agents surely must, but ultimately it left me confused about how we’re supposed to feel. Is Kevin cruel, despite her relentless badgering for him to do this? Is it some kind of cathartic experience for Elizabeth, is she now cured of her insecurities? Since the scene did serve up some sexy full frontal nudity I’m willing to let the ambiguity slide.

Brenda Blethyn plays the doting mother, Jane. A lonely, wealthy woman, she decides that she needs to lose some weight and chooses liposuction, under the spell of her charming creep of a doctor, played by Michael Nouri. A touch naïve but a totally loving woman, she frets about what will become of her daughters should she not make it through the surgery. It’s wonderful performance from an accomplished actress.

The fun in the film is provided by Catherine Keener’s Michelle, who under pressure from her miserable husband gets a job at a one-hour photo lab. There she unwisely falls into a relationship with her seventeen-year-old boss, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s both funny and sad to watch her as she sucks up all the lust and loving that she’s been so starved for. For his part Mr. Gyllenhaal does a nice job as a geeky teenager trying to connect.

“Lovely & Amazing” reminds you that not every film needs a big story. It gets by with wit, charm and sadness. It’s not escapist fare, to be sure, but it’s well done. I’m Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
Lovely & Amazing
USA - 2002