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Lovely & Amazing

Don't let this sleeper hit pass you by

Not every movie has a budget the size of Russia's economy. Most indie flicks quietly slip onto the screens of art houses all over the country and then slide off onto obscure video racks. Lovely & Amazing, directed by Nicole Holofcener, is one of these inconspicuous movies that you may not have heard of but should definitely go see.
It tells the story of four women, in particular, a family of women. However, this is not a Steel Magnolias weepy chick flick. Lovely and Amazing is caustic, brutally honest and real. It could make the coldest, most emotionally inept typical jock-type guy cringe; in short, one of those guys in the Foster's beer commercials would find himself talking to the screen, imploring the characters not to do such and such.
All of the characters - a single mom, her two grown daughters, and her eight year-old adopted daughter - encounter various problems ranging from kinky hair to weight issues to career fallbacks to dysfunctional relationships. The elder daughter, Michelle (Catherine Keener), is an out of work mom who is self- absorbed, envious, and hard but also hides a heart of gold. She's so out of it that she rather have her daughter watch cartoons with her than read to her. Michelle hates her husband with a passion and flirts with random guys for an ounce of attention. She'll take anything she can get, including a piece of ass from her new boss Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Her younger sister, Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) isn't any more stable. She's an actress who collects lost dogs and doesn't have the stomach for the film industry. She has one of the many indelible scenes in which a sleazy up-and-coming Hollywood star, Kevin McCabe (Dermot Mulroney), evaluates her body, limb by limb. The matriarch of the clan, Jane Marks (Brenda Blethyn), is a middle-aged fireball with a foul mouth. She's so lonely that she attempts to interact with the only man currently in her life - her liposuction doctor. In another harrowing scene, Jane flirts with the man desperately and he clearly doesn't take notice. Blethyn plays the character with such subtle emotion that you truly feel empathy for her. Indeed, each performance is wrought with precision, as if the actors crawled inside their characters and lived their everyday melodramas.

However, it is Annie (Raven Goodwin) the youngest daughter, whose character is only 8 years old, who gives the most powerful performance in this ensemble. She asks a million questions, throw tantrums and has a sick sense of humor yet she seems to be the most in touch with reality. She says things like "I wanna tear my skin off" (because she's black, and wants the white skin of the rest of her family) with the depth of a skilled actress.

Keener is one of the most talented actresses out there and Blethyn has already established herself as a powerhouse. If that wasn't enough, this movie has discovered a bright, new actress in Goodwin who, if she keeps on churning out performances like this one, promises to have an amazing future ahead of her.

Lovely & Amazing's plot is engaging and never drags. The dialogue is sharp and witty. The characters are dysfunctional, if not, real people. This sleeper summer hit is anything but tired and sluggish. It pulls you all the way and you happily follow.


Lovely & Amazing
Rated R
1 hour 31 minutes

Catherine Keener
Brenda Blethyn
Emily Mortimer
Dermot Mulroney
Jake Gyllenhaal