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The thing that makes this movie so - I have to say it - lovely &
amazing is what it doesn't do: it doesn't attempt in any shape or form
to be commercial, it doesn't compromise its integrity or the integrity
of its characters in any way, and it doesn't try to be cute or clever
or witty or deep. It simply invites us into the characters' lives and
lets us share them for a couple of hours. No judgment, no big overblown
speeches, no hystrionics. No car crashes, no dead bodies, no funerals.
No artifice, no heavy-handedness, no contrivances.
Nicole Holofcener achieved the same effect in Walking & Talking, which had the same 'effortless' feel to it, and the always-wonderful Catherine Keener is in both, as well. The cast also includes Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer and Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko himself!) and everyone is superb, creating beautifully nuanced and subtle characterizations that ring entirely true.
I trust Holofcener (even though I can't pronounce her name yet) - she doesn't seem like she's going to sell out and make anything remotely commercial anytime in the future, her vision is far too pure for that, which makes her lovely & amazing in my book.
whenever she launched into one of her favorite themes, "American women hate
their bodies." "Lovely & Amazing" takes us into the appearance-based
self-image of females from eight to slightly past mid-age whose concern
about their bodies is one major part of their complex, sometimes wacky and
always interdependent lives.
"Lovely and Amazing" takes its place along "Kissing Jessica Stein" as a sharp, inspired view of women's lives as seen through a female director's vision brought to life by an outstanding cast.
Director Nicole Holofcener, who also wrote the script, projects a sense of balance that brings each character's life into sharp and absorbing focus. Jane, (Brenda Blethyn) the long-divorced matriarch, adopted a young black girl, Annie (Raven Goodwin). No reason given and...none needed. Jane is both wise and vulnerable, warm and vain.
Her two grown-up (entirely chronologically and partially emotionally) daughters, Michelle (Catherine Keener) and Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) lead different lives but express much mutual love for each other and with Annie. No sibling rivalry and repressed anger from a pantheon of past slights in this flick. Michelle is a caring mother of a little girl married to a guy who obviously is tired of the union but Michelle can't figure out why. Her husband may be bored and disposed to philandering but she never figures out that his complaint that she won't work but only devotes herself to creating odd objets d'art that no one wants to buy has some merit.
Elizabeth is a stray pooch-collecting film actress teetering on the edge of dwindling starletdom. Described as neurotic, she really has a basis for her career insecurity which is exacerbated by a boyfriend whose unsupportive manner borders on clinical anhedonism. Woody Allen's frequent neurotic film persona is unbounded joy compared to this guy.
Weaving through the sisters' and mom's various dilemmas is a constant concern about body contours. The rigors of liposuction (the mom's expensive treat for herself) are realistically shown - no sugar-coated subliminal push for surgical sculpting here. The scene where a naked Elizabeth demands a post-coital appendage-by-appendage evaluation by her cautious lover wryly comes close to a truth many women admit to but only amongst themselves (I assert that Upon Information and Belief, a useful lawyer's escape).
Annie, born a crack baby, now has to deal with baby fat as her important life issue. Whether she wants to or not. She's sharp and funny and the genuine ease by which her two siblings refer to her as their sister does not displace references to the reality of growing up black in an affluent white family but it does put that dimension in perspective. This is a very lucky, loved kid and the affection between the three sisters is believable. Also welcome. And just plain nice.
All four share the trait of being able to hurl four-letter expletives at the drop of a slight. It's very funny.
The men in the movie aren't so much irrelevant as they are accessories: useful, often annoying, sometimes immature but never dangerous. Or even worth looking at too closely.
Catherine Keener and Emily Mortimer shine as complex characters not wholly aware of why their lives play out as they do. Neither can repress a refreshing optimism that surfaces time and again. Ms. Keener is an amazing actress!
Director Nicole Holefcener has a lot to say and I'm look forward to her next film.
Few directors have a firm grip on creating comic works which while making us laugh or smile, also move us deeply. Chaplin's genius was founded on this blend of emotions. When Time magazine's cover labeled Wood Allen "comic genius" it was this same principle they were commending, though his films over the past 20 years would largely disprove this assumption.
Nicole Holofcener's small output prevents making any kind of assumption as yet, but in "Lovely and Amazing" she displays remarkable ability in dealing with the pain people (mostly female) experience in grappling with the issue of self esteem. Throughout the movie and without any lapse, she reveals the comic side of human frailty. We laugh at the characters with compassion rather than derision. It's a feat of great skill and much promise.
Holofcener clearly works well with actors, Brenda Blethyn, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, Emily Mortimer and Jake Gyllenhaal, all are spot on with their characters. She also elicits a lovely underplayed performance from inexperienced child actor Raven Goodwin.
Holofcener has produced a genuinely lovely film; one that portends amazing things yet to come.
When I first saw Walking and Talking, Nicole Holofcener's
previous film, I didn't realize at first what a brilliant piece of work
was. My experience with Lovely and Amazing was exactly the
same. It is only later that it becomes clear how expertly the
relationships between the characters are illuminated and with
what originality she has constructed a story. Lovely and Amazing
is an examination of a family of women and their complex
relationships with themselves and the men in their lives. The
women in Lovely and Amazing are real people. They are frequently
horrible to each other and sabotage themselves just like real
women. They are also capable, like real women, of moments of
intimacy and insight with each other.
I believe Nicole Holofcener is the most talented indie filmmaker out there at the moment. Walking and Talking is one of my all time favorite films, and Lovely and Amazing just confirmed her status in my eyes as an insightful storyteller. Audiences deserve more films that achieve this level of excellence, and I hope Nicole Holofcener has the chance to deliver them.
Stanley Kubrick's line, to me, sums my impression of this movie up
It was real, but it wasn't interesting.
In all fairness, all of the lead actresses in the movie engaged me at one point or another, at least briefly. But the integral thing about their characters was that they were shallow, and remained shallow at the end.
Which is real, there are certainly people in the world who are shallow and remain shallow.
But it isn't especially interesting.
I was really impressed with this film. It manages to avoid all of the
cliches you frequently see in Hollywood films about women and present an
honest and often amusing picture of the characters' lives.
Catherine Keener is a real stand-out and I can't say enough about Raven Goodwin's performance.
This film isn't just about women. It's about the way we all see ourselves.
This film is about the daily struggles for happiness of a mother and
her 3 daughters.
The story is captivating from the start. The mother, played by Brenda Blethlyn, is insecure and wanted a liposuction. The eldest daughter, played by Catherine Keener, has a painfully distant husband. The middle daughter, played by Emily Mortimer, is a struggling actress with high levels of insecurity. The youngest daughter is an adopted daughter of African heritage, and she is spoilt to bits.
The dysfunction between the family is portrayed very well, due to excellent character developments. I get to understand every character's thoughts and feelings. Catherine Keener and Emily Mortimer act well, and brings the characters to life. There are few films that can make the characters so vivid and alive.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was enjoying this film thoroughly until the ending when some very important plot developments are left unresolved! The acting is excellent and the dialogue sharp and even though I recommend this film to everyone, I think everyone will have the same reaction as I did. It can't end now! I don't want to give the ending away (Or the lack of an ending)but Catherine Keener's character is about to lose her marriage and has a statutory rape charge hanging over her head and her husband is threatening to take away her daughter! Then the movie ends? I don't hate this film. I liked it. But it leaves the viewer in an unsatisfying way. These are not loose threads, but empty holes! Anyway, go see it!
I was really impressed by the solid characterizations and the comfort Holofcener has with the story and the script, even among the uncomfortable issues it raises. Finally, a feminine anti-hero film that does not attempt to make any statements about Women or Men, but just gives roles to women that are refreshingly human. The characters are often unsympathetic, but that makes it work so much the better. Shooting in HD video is the best choice over regular DV, and it is almost believable to be film. A solid film and worth seeing!
There's just not much to this movie. I really enjoy Catherine Keener and Jake Gyllenhall normally, and this film was no different. Other than them, there's really nothing remarkable about this film.
One major grumble- the plot is stretched so thin as to be nonexistent. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that this film has no plot. No character development, no resolution of conflict, no nothing. I would say it's nihilistic but I think that a film has to at least _try_ in order to be considered nihilistic. It's like watching a weird kind of reality show that gets sentimental about its subjects. Maybe that's the tone the movie was trying for. Even if that's the case, I'm wildly unimpressed.
I will say that the trailers before this film were extraordinary, though.
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