Lovely & Amazing was directed and written by Nicole Holofcener, whos 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 theyre 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 mothers fantasies or needle her insecure sister. When Annie, the adopted sister remarks that Michelle doesnt like her, shes told that no, Michelle doesnt like herself.
Emily Mortimer plays Elizabeth Marks, the younger of the two sisters and the good daughter. Shes an actress whos 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 thats wrong with her appearance. Its painful to watch as he dissects her body, the way casting agents surely must, but ultimately it left me confused about how were 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 Im 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. Its wonderful performance from an accomplished actress.
The fun in the film is provided by Catherine Keeners 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. Its both funny and sad to watch her as she sucks up all the lust and loving that shes 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. Its not escapist fare, to be sure, but its well done. Im Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
© 2002 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 7/3/02
Lovely & Amazing
USA - 2002