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Lovely and Amazing
Directed + written by: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Catherine Keener, Emily Mortimer, Brenda Blethyn
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama

Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: darkly comic, witty
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5

Plot synopsis Lovely and Amazing is the story of single mom Jane Marks, her two grown-up daughters, Michelle and Elizabeth, and her eight-year old adopted daughter, Annie. All four live in sunny LA, and share a tendency to obsess over their own self-perceived flaws.  Jane, for instance, has recently become worried about looking her age, and has made the decision to undergo liposuction in an effort to feel a bit better about herself. Oldest daughter Michelle, meanwhile, finds herself growing angrier and more bitter by the day, as she suffers through an unhappy marriage, and tries to make a living selling elaborately-constructed miniature chairs to local gift shops, not surprisingly without much success. She hates the snotty saleswomen who won’t even look at her work, she hates her philandering husband, she pretty much hates the entire world – but really, what it comes down to, is that she sort of hates herself, and has a sneaking suspicion that those high school days back when she was homecoming queen may have been the peak of her life. Elizabeth’s self-loathing is much more on the surface: a struggling actress on the verge of minor success, she can’t help but let the constant judging that goes on in the acting world eat away at her self-esteem. She’s uncomfortable in her body, and constantly seeks reassurance from her writer boyfriend who, by this point, has long since grown tired of coddling her neuroses. Annie, meanwhile, not only feels bad about herself because she’s overweight, but because as the lone black face in her family, her dark skin and kinky hair don’t seem beautiful to her.

Review Nicole Holofcener’s first film, Walking and Talking, is one of my favorite security blanket movies ever – there’s nothing revolutionary about it (it’s in many respects a pretty typical indie talkfest about life and love in New York), but there’s something about the characters that just rings so true for me. They’re funny, and flawed, and lovably real, and watching Walking and Talking is like spending time with good girlfriends. So it was with pretty high anticipations that I went into Lovely and Amazing – expecting, I suppose, a sort of Walking and Talking 2: The LA version, something charming and light and ultimately kind of feel-good. But despite the nearly interchangeable titles, the two movies couldn’t be more different in terms of tone. Beneath the wit and humor, Lovely and Amazing is kind of a sad movie, that deals with something dark and kind of ugly about women and their insecurities: specifically, the way these insecurities perpetuate the cycle of low self-esteem in other females. None of the women/girls in Lovely and Amazing are remotely close to being happy with who they are – either outside or inside – and it’s often pretty painful to watch each of these characters either humiliate themselves or those who love them simply because they’re feeling so wretched about how they look, or what they’re doing with their lives. You can’t decide whether you want to hug them or smack them: it’s awful to watch perfectly lovely women beating themselves up because they don’t live up to some ridiculous societal ideal of the perfect female, but on the other hand, you increasingly begin to get the feeling that these characters bring their (ultimately pretty shallow, in the grand scheme of things) problems onto themselves. The acting and casting are perfect, the characterizations 100% realistic, but the characters themselves – with the exception of little Annie – aren’t terribly easy to like. And maybe that’s kind of the point. What’s so quietly miraculous about Holofcener’s second movie is that it’s a chick flick that absolutely refuses to romanticize the female experience into something fluffy and cuddly and cute. Instead it’s funny and serious, charming and hateful, beautiful and ugly and sometimes a little wistful -- like real women, really, when you think about it.
—reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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