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Lovely & Amazing Review

By Shawn McKenzie 06/27/2002

I hate it when a movie is being touted as the alternative to another movie that has more publicity and a wider release, especially when I haven’t seen the movie being trashed.

The movies in question are Lovely & Amazing and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Ya-Ya is the current butt-of-jokes amongst the movie-going crowd. The problem is…I haven’t seen it yet! I cannot fairly go along with the trashing of the movie until I see it. However, I can comment on the movie called the alternative to Ya-Ya, Lovely & Amazing.

Lovely & Amazing is the story of the Marks sisters and their mother. The oldest of the three sisters, Michelle (Catherine Keener) is a stay-at-home mom in a loveless marriage. The second sister, Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) is an actress with a boyfriend who has no interest in her career or her love of stray dogs. The youngest sister, Annie, is a black girl who Michelle and Elizabeth’s mother, Jane (Brenda Blethyn), adopted.

The mother and all of the sisters have many self-esteem issues. Michelle is an artist in her part time, making miniature chairs and hand-drawn wrapping paper. Her attempt at selling her artwork to gift shops isn’t going so well. Her husband begins nagging her about contributing financially to the family. One day Michelle gets frustrated and takes a job at a one-hour photo.  The guy who hires her is seventeen-years-old. Elizabeth is an attractive young actress who feels like she has to compromise herself in order to get ahead in the acting world.  Her image of her own body is completely out of whack.  Annie is probably the most screwed up of the sisters.  She sees all of these skinny white girls and wishes she were skinny and white.  She has a morbid habit of pretending to be dead whenever she is in the pool.

The thing I noticed about this movie was how un-politically correct it was...which is a good thing.  Director Nicole Holofcener was able to find a talented group of actors who were not the typical mega-hot actors seen in most Hollywood movies, and the believability was heightened by that.  I kept seeing many things in the movie that, if this were a bigger release, might have been picketed by several special interest groups.  Feminists might hate that the mother felt the need to get liposuction surgery or that Elizabeth had to attend an audition to see if she had "heat" with the leading man.  The NAACP might object to Annie's comment to Jane that she wanted to tear her skin off because she wanted Jane's skin (who promptly replied that Annie had beautiful skin and that she wouldn't want old, wrinkly white skin.)  Family groups might object to the co-habitation and statutory rape (you will have to see the movie to see what I mean.)  In addition, many of the snide comments made by the characters (especially Michelle) might upset various people.

One scene in the movie might offend morality groups, but ironically, it is actually the movie's most poignant scene.  The scene takes place after Elizabeth has broken up with her boyfriend.  She ends up sleeping with the actor she had the audition with (after running into him at the drugstore.)  While they are in bed, she asks him to do a favor.  She crawls out of bed, completely naked and stands in front of him with her whole body in perfect view.  The favor she asks of him is to point out all of her bad physical traits, but says that he can point out her good traits too.  He proceeds to do just that, none of it malicious, but all of it honest (at least in his opinion.)  After he is done, she puts on her clothes, thanks him, kisses him, and leaves.  The little exercise of evaluation seemed to have improved her self-image slightly, based on the look on her face.

I did have a couple of problems with Lovely & Amazing.  It suffered from the cliché that "all-men-are-jerks," seen in many other chick flicks.  It tried to balance them out with some nice guys, but those nice guys were unapproachable.  One was a famous actor (who seemed like a jerk himself at first) and another was an underage lover.  The other problem I had was that the end left me hanging.  I didn't feel everything was resolved.  I know that it is the attitude of other critics that independent movies just portray a slice of life and that they don't need resolution, but I have a different attitude.  I think a filmmaker should realize that even though an audience likes realism, they also want resolution.  As real as movies are, they are not actual real life (except for documentaries.)  Moviegoers go to movies for escape, because they want the realism they can identify with and the resolution they wish would occur in their real life.  I think this movie would play better as an ongoing television show on HBO or Showtime (not on the networks, because they would have to put political correctness back in and the show would be boring.)  It's no wonder that I feel this way, since Holofcener directed several chick flickish TV shows, like "Sex and the City," "The Gilmore Girls," and "Leap of Faith."  I hope she possibly creates a TV show based on the Marks sisters.

If you were sapped out by the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (again, only an assumption on my part), then check out Lovely & Amazing.  For the few faults it has, the one thing it doesn't have is sap!

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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