Lovely & Amazing (2001) Poster

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My A-Lifetime-Ago Girlfriend Was Right
Ralph Michael Stein6 July 2002
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.
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Genuinely Lovely
graham clarke20 July 2003
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.
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Refreshing & Inspiring
Rogue-325 July 2002
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.
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Brilliant and Subtle
rainydayfilms5 February 2003
When I first saw Walking and Talking, Nicole Holofcener's previous film, I didn't realize at first what a brilliant piece of work it 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.
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Emotionally deep drama of a dysfunctional family
Gordon-1117 May 2007
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.
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Not your typical chick flick
marobertson24 January 2003
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.
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Real, but not interesting
Mercury-430 December 2002
Stanley Kubrick's line, to me, sums my impression of this movie up completely.

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.
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Story goes no where but sharp dialogue save film
rosscinema28 July 2002
Warning: 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!
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Solid film
emylou26 June 2002
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!
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Why should I care?
marina-315 February 2007
My first question in evaluating a movie is, "Why should I care about these characters?" There was no reason to care about any of these characters, and if a film doesn't start out "hooking" me into caring, I get irritated with it. These women were annoying, self-absorbed, unlikeable, and demandingly selfish. I tried to care, but was glad that I had kitchen work to do while I watched it or I'd have given up on it as a waste of time. The only reason I give it a 3 is that the acting was OK.

Why do "women's movies" think that we want to see real-life to the point that there is little redeeming value to what the characters are portrayed as going through? This movie reminded me of a person I work with who comes in every day assuming I'll be thrilled to hear about the boring details of her life and relationships.
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Lovely? Sure. Amazing? Not so much.
evilmatt-31 August 2002

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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Elliott Noble22 November 2004
Watchable and inoffensive but hardly likely to arouse intense debate about anything, really. The performances are neat and unshowy, with Catherine Keener reliable as ever as (another) wayward hard-ass, Mulroney playing the roguish fool and Jake Gyllenhaal practising for the role he plays in The Good Girl. But Brenda Blethyn's matriarch isn't given any real depth which has got to go down as a missed opportunity. And since the story is an irrelevance, there aren't enough revelations (in fact, none) amongst the introspective musings and general angst to set this apart from any other female-orientated slice-of-life indie. It all feels a bit like Soderbergh's Full Frontal, only less constipated.
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Meet the Marks Sisters
mgressma8 May 2002
You know the Marx brothers, now meet the Marks sisters, Michelle, Elizabeth, and Annie. Their mother is Jane, played by Brenda Blethyn. Michelle is trapped in a loveless, sexless marraige. Elizabeth is hooked up with a guy whose logical approach to life rivals that of Mr. Spock. And Annie is a very young black girl (I know this sounds like something out of a Steve Martin movie, but it's true), who is very attached to her adoptive mom. "Lovely & Amazing" is an entertaining movie about this crazy family. It has everything, liposuction, statutory rape, fast food, show business, and possibly rabies.

If you're tired of all the adolescent piffle that's out there, you should give this movie a look-see.
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A study of self-loathing does not make for a sympathetic movie
trpdean4 November 2003
I had read two glowing reviews of this movie - but this is the sort of movie that requires you to be in sympathy with the characters. And it's a failure. I liked only one of the characters (the mother), simply pitied another (the eight year old girl), found one tiresome (the middle sister) and another (the eldest) hateful.

One of the most striking things about this movie is how easily some without any struggle for life can find ways to make themselves miserable: by cursing strangers, committing rape, behaving abominably toward their family, agonizing over a slight setback in a career -- or loathing their race or body.

What a study of self-obsession this movie is - and it makes it impossible to care about these characters.

When one character is arrested by the police, of course our feeling is relief, we feel "throw the book at her - make her serve decades in prison" and yet I'm not sure the director wanted the audience to experience such loathing of a character whose awful conduct we've been forced to watch for so long.

There's absolutely no consideration of others shown by these characters - whether it is a woman fornicating with a stranger just after she has supposedly had a difficult break-up (so we assume that she is lying that she ever cared for the person - particularly since we aren't shown at all she cared - but why IS she lying?)

-- or a wife raping a young boy --

or another calling a complete stranger a "pig".

In fact, one of the striking things about these characters is how frequently these well-off people call strangers names - "bitch" and "bastard" and "pig" and "repulsive".

If one index of whether a character is likable is that they care for others, it is only the older woman (and to some extent the 8 year old) who appear to give any thought at all to making others happier. From the others, we see only lust and vanity and self-loathing, anger and ambition. I'd never want to run into any member of the younger generation of these characters. They're just loathsome. Yet if a viewer reacts this way to them, it feels that he or she won't like the movie.

In fact, I find it a quite depressing thing that some reviewers do feel the characters represent them!

It's also terribly tedious and slow.

I had happily anticipated this - and hated it.
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It's neither, sorry folks
vyto3426 July 2003
This tedious bit of filmmaking received some very strong publicity and film festivals but one wonders what those folks were smoking...

It is boring and unispired, phony, and nothing is lovely at all, not even the ladies starring in it. Maybe it is amazing that the director found financing for her film, but that's about it. "Women's films" usually are over-emotional and melodramatic, this one is just a bunch of ladies with nothing to do or say.
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HBO Should Pick This Up
tredyffrin28 December 2002
I really enjoyed this movie, but thought that 90 minutes did not do it justice. Though a good movie, this could be a GREAT series. The character development reminds me of that in Six Feet Under. Each character has her own issues and insecurities, but that's what makes us grow attached to her. I would love to see the next 15 "episodes" to find out what happens to them. HBO - IS ANYONE OUT THERE LISTENING???
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A rare honest portrayal of women.
chiudennis19 August 2002
"Lovely & Amazing" is one of those rare films about women that does the gender justice.

I must admit to a pet peeve about the portrayal of women in movies. I find far too often that women are used as the mechanism for the downfall of men. It has been this way since Eve allegedly tempted Adam to taste the forbidden fruit, or Samson entrusted his hair to Delilah and so on. A shining example is Martin Scorcese's "Casino" where drugged-out Ginger, portrayed by Sharon Stone, leads Sam, portrayed by Robert DeNiro, into ruin. I hate that. I think it's misogynistic.

More recent depictions of groups of women have taken on a "Sex in the City" flair, case in point is the "Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood". I find these depictions uninteresting popular fantasies that attempt to empower women by shooting them full of testosterone, creating in them the lasciviousness of men. Yes, it empowers women by tearing down traditional sexual roles, but ignores a serious multi-dimensional look of women's lives in total.

"Lovely & Amazing" portrayed women in total. It is the story of a Mother and her two daughters at a time of growth and change in their lives.

One important symbolic scene depicts one of the daughters, Elizabeth (portrayed by Emily Mortimer), naked asking to be told the truth about her body. She hears that one breast is slightly larger than the other, that her pubic hair needs to be trimmed, that one eye is larger than the other, that her upper arms are a little flabby, and her teeth are a little yellow. She also hears that her breast look beautifully natural, that her hips are wonderful and that she is well proportioned. Through this scene we realize that Elizabeth is beautiful because of her imperfections. We remember why the statue of the "Venus De Milo" with her missing arms and legs is so beautiful. This one scene is the essence of the film and what I seek in these types of films.

The entire film reaches for truth and honesty in the depiction of the main characters. The mother, Jane Marks (portrayed by Brendy Blethyn), daughter Michelle (portrayed by Catherien Keener) and Elizabeth genuinely depict the lives of these women and their inner turmoil.

Jake Gyllinhaal and Dermot Mulroney turn in some fine work as the love interests that truly appreciated the Keener and Mortimer characters.

My one small problem with the film was that watching it made me feel a little like listening to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" (used often, most famously perhaps at JFK's funeral and in Oliver Stone's village burning scene in "Platoon") where the music reaches mournfully higher and higher, never consumating the notes or the emotions until the very end. I love that music and this film, but it would have been nice if the film provided some resting points along the way.

My score is 9 out of 10 or ***3/4* out of ****.
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Amazing and Annoying
majic-525 November 2007
Look into nearly any family, and you can find dysfunction. If I'm going to spend 90 minutes watching a movie about a neurotic, middle-class white mother, her two neurotic, middle-class daughters, and an adopted black girl with self-esteem issues and an eating disorder, I want there to be a story related to their dysfunction, not simply a slice of their exasperating lives. I want people to change, mature, transform. I want interesting things to happen to justify watching unaware, immature, self-absorbed, self-destructive behavior for an hour and a half. But that's all this film gives, unless you count the reminder that all men are unsupportive, insensitive, philandering pigs.

Clearly, I'm not in the target demographic.
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Depressing & Ridiculous
alexander2221 July 2002
Lovely & Amazing has to be one of the worst movies of the year. The acting was terrible (and I normally love Brenda Blethyn and Catherine Keener), the script was poorly written, and so many of the scenes were simply not believable at all. And why did all the characters in the movie have to be such losers? I wanted to leave halfway through, but against my better judgement I stayed hoping it would get better. It didn't!
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lazy filmmaking
There's some chain I can't remember the name of that makes a low calorie ice cream substitute. Some people like it, but to me it just tastes like whipped air. Lovely and Amazing is the same sort of confection, a forgettable, insubstantial facsimile of a touching drama. An estrogen-fueled flick about a bunch of related women, the movie has few ideas and in spite of very occasional good moments is generally poorly conceived and bland.

There is something very lazy about this movie. Characters are not fully drawn, but are more like stick figures designed to make a point. While the main characters are given at least a semblance of depth, minor characters are invariably automatons programmed to do a specific task that will get a specific reaction from a main character; none are full people in their own right. For the most part, nothing happens of note in the film, but a few unlikely, ridiculously over-the-top events are tossed in to, I suppose, try and goose up the dramatic tension.

Poor script, bland direction, unpleasant characters. Decent performances by Keener and Mortimer can't save it.
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Perfect Take on Borderline Personality Disorder
freebird-1028 July 2002
Okay, this is a "good" film in that it is character driven, a bit like "Happiness" with its three sisters story (which is far superior). The worst of it--Emily Mortimer doing full frontal nudity, totallly gratuitous and robbing us of character development. Her character asks the man she's slept with to critique her body. Hey, instead of showing us the whole thing, which makes his critique invalid and distracts us from the extreme masochism of the request, how about just showing us her facial reactions to his "butt not round enough," "tit too droopy"? Wouldn't that be a more powerful way to go? This is not a daring move; it's ineffective and takes away from the story. HOWEVER, the good part is, if you're unlucky enough to have a borderline female in you life, Catherine Keener gives a dead-on portrait of this perpetually unhappy, toxic species. Something therapists can point to and victims can learn from. I'd recommend seeing this film just for that particular educational value, as well as some of the strongest writing.
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This movie was "Ugly and Hateful". . .I walked out of the theatre!!!
redcatbiker3 September 2002
I had a visceral reaction after seeing this movie: I became ill; terribly nauseaus, for hours. Admittedly, I did not see the entire movie; after about 45 minutes I walked out of the theatre. I could not bear to watch any more of what I can only "judge" to be THE worst movie that I have ever had the displeasure of paying for and viewing! Actually, I was ready to walk out on this movie sooner (about 20 minutes into it), but I thought. . .was hoping that it would go somewhere. . .anywhere!

The movie was boring. The two older daughters were extremely ugly human beings. The dialogue was empty. Brenda Blethyn's performance was the only good thing about the movie. That woman could make anything look good, but alas, she was unable to do that for this picture, because its "terribleness" was just so much greater than her greatness.

Lastly, not only was it a bad, terrible, awful, and boring flick, it was incredibly offensive--racist. In all my encounters with black (American) children, I have never come across one who hated their "blackness." The child in this movie was written with such incredibly racial self-loathing, that I could not stand to sit through any more of it: I walked out.
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Get A Life
RARubin2 May 2005
I've noticed something a trend perhaps in Indie Cinema, it's all about the Upper Middle Class. Are the writers, directors, of these pictures of this group? After all, even an Indie production costs millions to produce. Your average middle classer has a hard time comprehending his rent, forget getting a picture funded.

In Lovely and Amazing, the women seemed to live in a plush world of decorator pillows and jeans. Big houses or snazzy apartments are the norm, trendy villages to shop too. Emily the actress, she's not waiting on tables while she's in between lovers or parts. Nor is her older sister, ex-prom queen, Catherine in the work world post-college and kids. Her hubby has his semi-glamorous office world and mistress, and plenty of time away from the family. Little black orphan child has issues in this white comfy world, too much food perhaps? The cars are smooth and leathery without pretension, the clubbing's and veranda angst is so Bloomingdale.

In the end we suggest all these ladies get a life.
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not just for ladies
jpsrock4 August 2002
I didn't know what this movie was going to be about when i walked into the theatre. If I had I would have stayed away - on paper it's your class "chick flick" - three sisters working out their problem and a neurotic mother facing a "health crisis". However, I'm really glad I saw it because this was a not a manipulative tearjerker: Not at all: I felt like I spent time with four real human beings (the mom + 3 sisters). Catherine Keener was great in this - she was in turns immature (she loves cartoons :-)) , likable, maybe sometimes not so likeable, maybe lazy, the kind of actress for whatever reason you can't take your eyes off of. The actress daughter played by Emily Mortimer hit just the right notes of insecurity and authenticity - when the guy she sleeps with tells her not to get a boob job because "she's an original" I felt like "Yeah, she really is!". Anyways I really thought this was a good character driven movie - the director obviously had an affection for her characters and I did to - I recommend this movie.
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Fine Character Study
kenjha25 September 2008
This is a well-made character study about a neurotic family, consisting of a mother and her three daughters, two grown and one adopted eight-year-old. Keener is terrific as the eldest daughter, who is basically angry with the world because her life is going nowhere. Mortimer is equally good as the middle daughter, a sweetly vulnerable actress coming to grips with failure in her profession. Blyth is fine as the mother and the good supporting cast features some familiar faces. Nothing much happens but it's a good to spend some time getting to know these characters. Kudos to Holofcener, who wrote and directed this comedy-drama.
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