Lovely & Amazing Movie Review

Lovely & Amazing, Nicole Holofcener's follow-up to her feature debut Walking And Talking, doesn't quite rank with suburban classics like Ordinary People and American Beauty -- it never takes itself quite seriously enough for that; but it has the right makings for a memorable movie experience. Simple, sweet, and direct, this sensational portrait of engaging characters ranks as one of the year's best movies to date.

The film observes the daily rituals of four hapless but elastic women as they struggle with various demands of their eventful lives. While most movies would become lost in the complicated world of these spontaneous situations, Lovely & Amazing simply observes as the characters deal with thought-provoking issues involving relationships, health, age, romance, and work.

Brenda Blethyn plays Jane Marks, the insecure mother of a dazed trio of very different daughters. Michelle (Catherine Keener) a former homecoming queen, finds herself in a loveless marriage with a husband who doesn't appreciate her artistic talents. Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) is an apprehensive actress whose career takes off as she falls in love with a huge movie star. The youngest sister, an adopted African-American eight-year old named Annie (Raven Goodwin), acts far too old for her age. On the threshold of an already confusing childhood, she has become obsessed with her appearance, despite serious weight problems.

The audience really cares about these characters as they walk through vital stages of their lives. Holofcener has written them with vivid detail, and the actors do a wonderful job of expanding them beyond the page. Keener provides Michelle with two contrasting personalities: a soft, gentle side and a hard, embittered bitch. Mortimer breathes life into Elizabeth's many insecurities through consistent physical and vocal characterization. And Blethyn perfectly portrays a mother by demonstrating understanding, reassurance, and emotional support for her daughters.

Seldom do movies create focus through spontaneity, but Lovely & Amazing feeds on surprise. Take a scene in which Elizabeth sleeps with a famous Hollywood actor (Dermot Mulroney). She stands before him, completely nude, and awkwardly questions her own sexiness. Where most movies would indulge such nudity for different reasons, this one looks at sex with a fascinating, original perspective.

Lovely & Amazing is exactly that: lovely and amazing. Each scene flows right into the next and each engaging moment explodes with honesty and intelligence. It isn't always a positive film, but even the negative scenes contain a touching, bittersweet humor. If not for an ineffective, inconclusive conclusion, it would be a complete delight. Though its message doesn't strike deep and emotional chords like many movies of this sort do, it does remind viewers of an important fact of life -- sometimes, you gotta tell people to go to hell.

The DVD features a few interviews as extras -- or you can just read ours.

It's some film critic. And he wants to talk to you.


Lovely & Amazing Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: R, 2001


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