Lovely & Amazing

September, 2002, Comedy

The title for once, is an apt description of the movie; here's a terrific slice of contemporary middle class urban life, served up with consummate skill by writer-director Nicole Holofcener and a wonderful cast which includes Brenda Blethyn, Catherine Keener and Dermot Mulroney. In her sophomore effort, the director observes today's American female in ways that make "Sex and The City" seem laughably shallow and inaccurate by comparison. Here are portraits of a mother, (Blethyn) her two grown daughters, (Keener, & newcomer Emily Mortimer) and African-American sensation Robin Goodwin as her adopted 8 yr-old. In the course of enduring a liposuction procedure that turns ominous, Blethyn and her brood reveal themselves in interactions with husbands, boyfriends, classmates, co-workers, soul mates, one night stands & assorted acquaintances in situations so credible they have the initial appearance of being documentary in nature. 

Keener is a mid-thirtyish housewife, bored with her husband because he's bored with her, and kidding herself that the miniature crafts she produces constitute "art". Her younger sister Mortimer, an aspiring actress with self-esteem lower than the Dead Sea, struggles to find work and emotional support from her live-in boyfriend and fellow actor Mulroney, who provides, in his role as a shallow soap opera star, a wickedly dead-on portrait of male self-absorption. It's the best work this mediocre actor has ever done, and hints at what he may be truly capable of. 

Blethyn manages the nearly impossible task of being both ludicrous and endearing as she tries to cope with the problems of her overweight adopted daughter and the self-centered pair to whom she gave birth. The liposuction hurts like hell after all, (despite the fact that her surgeon is handsome) and is he really flirting with her? Holofcener's script allows this quartet of brilliant performances to capture the vulnerability, loneliness and self-centeredness of fully realized characters who, in their own way, send out small signals of real concern for one another. This wounded family may not understand their own motivations, but their furtive expressions of sympathy for each other's plights are simultaneously heart breaking and life affirming. They're often down, but never quite out; and the occasional glimpse of self- awareness always comes with perfect, deadpan comedic pitch.  

Episodic, flippant, and without a single false note, Lovely & Amazing joins Sunshine State as the yet another example of an independent film worthy of the recognition it's generating. 

The Verdict? Go see this one; you may recognize these characters as people in your own life, with perhaps a trait or two you own yourself…


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