LOVELY AND AMAZING
When Jane (Brenda Blethyn) is about to have a liposuction operation, her unhappily married daughter Michelle (Catherine Keener) agrees to look after Jane’s adopted eight year old black American, Annie (Raven Goodwin) while she is in hospital. In the meantime, Michelle’s younger sister, aspiring movie actress Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) is anxious that she is not sexy enough for her boyfriend - and especially when asked to audition with movie star Kevin McCabe (Dermot Mulroney).
Review by Louise Keller:
Everyone’s insecure in Lovely and Amazing, a poignant and wryly amusing film about mothers, daughters and their relationships. Although there are some parallels with Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, Nicole Holofcener’s work is more a portrayal of the characters, aiming more for truths rather than laughs. But the laughs are certainly there, evolving naturally from circumstances that only real life brings. Mother and daughters could not be more different, with each revealing her insecurity and obsession in a different way. We first meet beautiful, slim Elizabeth, whose acting career seems to be highlighting her every negative thought about herself and whether or not she is sexy. This impacts on her relationships and seems to draw her to every stray dog in the neighbourhood. Her mother Jane is so obsessive that she covers her bed with pillows, leaving no room to lie down. She has already adopted 8 year old Afro American girl Annie for company, but now her obsession lies with her liposuction surgeon, her hopes pinned on the 10 lbs of fat that is removed. Annie is constantly attention seeking and finds solace in eating junk food. Michelle spends more time sleeping with her daughter than her husband, and is aware of her husband’s infidelities. The women are a close knit family but they don’t really get on. They seem too aware of each other’s failings. We become involved in the little irritations of every day life, and from Holofcener’s insightful and thoughtful script, are able to be ‘mise en scene’ for every situation that arises, big and small. There’s a wonderfully funny situation that arises from a budding relationship between Michelle and Jordan, her 17 year old photo-shop employer (engagingly played by Jake Gyllenhaal). The scene where Michelle and Jordan are making out in the car, and are discovered by Jordan’s mother is so beautifully played out, with the ironic, comic elements ringing loudly in our ears. It’s a wonderful cast, and I especially like Catherine Keener’s hopelessly angry Michelle, and Emily Mortimer’s heartfelt and vulnerable Elizabeth. Raven Goodwin as little Annie, is both outstanding and unforgettable as the hot headed adopted youngster whose attempts at attention seeking are both amusing and annoying. Lovely and Amazing is an engaging character-driven tale that has no resolution, but takes a slice of life and reveals its intimate interactions.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The title is ironic in some ways, because it is the description given by a mother to one of her daughters, who feels anything but. Indeed, an equally apt title might have been Insecurities Unlimited – because that is the affliction of the characters in the film. Well, the women. The men are vaguely drawn and either dull or deceitful. There are indeed many such men, and man-bashing is not the film’s objective. It’s woman bashing. And it does it well, often with touches of comic brilliance and frequently with an acute sense of compassionate criticism. I like all that, and while the film deals with a group of inter-related characters, it doesn’t have the Robert Altman touch in bringing them into sharp dramatic focus. The women’s performances are underpinned by evident understanding and empathy; issues that have a great impact on Western women like self image are forever massaged by the script. Annie, the adopted little black girl offers opportunities for racial issues to be mixed in with the film’s main ingredient – mother/daughter relationships in the wider context of contemporary American society. Indeed, Raven Goodwin is astonishing as Annie, sometimes confrontingly so. The film, while not totally satisfying as anything other than a piece of observation without a dramatic anchor, is badly let down by music that nudges from a woeful and wailing country idiom to funereal. And by a very far fetched scene involving Michelle and her young lover, Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal). Had it been a farce, director Holofcener might have got away with it.
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LOVELY AND AMAZING (M)
CAST: Catherine Keener, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer, Raven Goodwin, Aunjanue Ellis, Clark Gregg, Jake Gyllenhaal
PRODUCER: Anthony Bregman, Ted Hope, Eric d'Arbeloffott
DIRECTOR: Nicole Holofcener
SCRIPT: Nicole Holofcener
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harlan Bosmajian
EDITOR: Robert Frazen
MUSIC: Craig Richey
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Devorah Herbert
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: All states except Qld: November 14, 2002; Qld: Nov 21, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 12, 2003 (also on DVD)