Lovely And Amazing

on June 28, 2002 by Ed Scheid
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   “Lovely & Amazing” is a lively and engaging examination of how similar obsessions can dominate a family. The script, written by director Nicole Holofcener (“Walking and Talking”), is full of sharp dialogue that is cleverly perceptive about the subtleties of ever-evolving relationships.

   Jane (“Saving Grace's” Brenda Blethyn), the mother of three daughters, is having liposuction to lose a few pounds so she'll feel better about her appearance. Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer of “Love's Labour's Lost”), Jane's middle daughter, is an aspiring actress who is also concerned about her looks: She's afraid that she's not attractive enough to get cast in a good part. The oldest daughter, Michelle (Catherine Keener of “Being John Malkovich”), a former homecoming queen, is in a stale marriage and is frustrated because no store is interested in purchasing her handmade decorative miniature chairs. Jane's youngest is Annie (Raven Goodwin), an adopted eight-year-old African-American--a character inspired by an interracial adoption in filmmaker Holofcener's family. Some of the most insightful scenes of Holofcener's film show how the family characteristics have spread to the young adopted member. Annie is also uneasy about her appearance, wishing her skin and hair fit in with the others. The men who complicate the women's lives include Jake Gyllenhaal (“Donnie Darko”) as a teenager who develops a crush on Michelle, James LeGros as Elizabeth's partner and Dermot Mulroney as an actor with whom Elizabeth is auditioning for “chemistry.”

   Holofcener has assembled a terrific ensemble to play her believably quirky and conflicted characters, who are forced by an unexpected event to break out of their daily routine of worrying about themselves in order to help each other. Keener is captivating, no matter how neurotic Michelle becomes. Blethyn creates another expert portrait of a contemporary mother. Young Goodwin is exceptional as the feisty Annie, who is not afraid to speak up to anyone. Starring Catherine Keener, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer and Raven Goodwin. Directed and written by Nicole Holofcener. Produced by Anthony Bregman, Eric d'Arbeloff and Ted Hope. A Lions Gate release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 91 min

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