Lovely & Amazing

"Lovely" is an apt description of this warm, funny and often brutally honest profile of an aging divorcee and her three very different daughters. But the general lack of thematic focus and an under-explored central character prevent Nicole Holofcener's second feature from being truly amazing. Jane Marks (Brenda Blethyn), a vain, somewhat frivolous suburban...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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"Lovely" is an apt description of this warm, funny and often brutally honest profile of an aging divorcee and her three very different daughters. But the general lack of thematic focus and an under-explored central character prevent Nicole Holofcener's second feature from being truly amazing. Jane Marks (Brenda Blethyn), a vain, somewhat frivolous suburban housewife, bid her husband farewell while daughters Elizabeth and Michelle were still young; when they were grown, Jane took the unusual step of adopting Annie (Raven Goodwin), a young African American foster-child. Warm-hearted but hopelessly insecure aspiring actress Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer), the middle daughter, collects stray dogs, puts up with a condescending boyfriend (James LeGros) and obsesses over her body. Rail thin, Elizabeth is tormented by the phantom flab she's convinced is hanging off her upper arms, and is thrown into a tail spin when she's passed over a starring role opposite sleazy actor Kevin McCabe (Dylan McDermott) because she's not "sexy" enough. And while older sister Michelle (Catherine Keener) accuses her mother of floating through life with her head in the clouds, she faces the world with head down, fists up and middle finger raised. Instead of settling into a steady job, Michelle's trying to make it as a freelance artist, constructing delicate miniature chairs out of twigs and moss; her husband, Bill (Clark Gregg), accuses her of trying to turn a hobby into a career. Whatever balance has been achieved among mom and daughters is thrown out of whack when Jane, unhappy with her middle-aged body, decides on a liposuction procedure and asks an accommodating Elizabeth and a typically angry Michelle, who actually seems jealous of her 8-year-old sister, to take care of Annie. When serious complications from the surgery arise and Jane's hospital stay is extended indefinitely, problems with Annie, who's begun to obsess over her own appearance and question her place as a black child in a white family, come to a head. Holofcener based much of her screenplay on her own personal experiences — in 1990, her mother adopted a African American boy — and she gets the family dynamics just right. The dialogue is tart, and the performances smart, but too little time is spent with Blethyn's character for viewers to really get a sense of how her own personality traits have been passed onto her daughters — a clearly stated but underdeveloped theme that's never fully integrated with the sharply explored issue of women and their bodies.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: R
  • Review: "Lovely" is an apt description of this warm, funny and often brutally honest profile of an aging divorcee and her three very different daughters. But the general lack of thematic focus and an under-explored central character prevent Nicole Holofcener's sec… (more)

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