Directed By: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Catherine Keener, Emily Mortimer, Brenda Blethyn
Tag line: "If you're hoping for the perfect family don't hold your breath"
Trivia: Debuted at the 2001 Telluride Film Festival
Directed by Nicole Holofcener, 2001’s Lovely and Amazing is a finely woven, often funny tale of three women, a mother and two daughters, and the loneliness and insecurity they endure on an almost daily basis.
Michelle Marks (Catherine Keener) is a former homecoming queen turned struggling artist. Her husband, Bill (Clark Gregg), is less than supportive of her career choice, and the two bicker constantly. What’s more, Bill is having an affair with Michelle’s best friend, and Michelle knows it. Her sister, Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer), is an actress who’s just lost out on a small part in an independent film. Her boyfriend Paul (James LeGros) is a lot like Michelle’s husband in that he’s not always there for her, and seems bored with their relationship. This doesn’t sit well with Elizabeth, who lacks confidence and takes every criticism to heart. Jane (Brenda Blethyn), Michelle’s and Elizabeth’s mother, is obsessed with her weight, and is preparing to undergo liposuction to “correct” it. Along with her two daughters, Jane has also adopted a young African-American girl named Annie (Raven Goodwin), whose real mother was a drug addict. Annie is overweight, hates that her skin is a different color than the rest of the family’s, and tries drawing attention to herself by playing practical jokes, like pretending to be drowned in the family pool.
All four of these ladies struggle through life, dealing with one appalling break after another. Director Holofcener successfully spins the complicated web of her character’s lives, allowing us to experience, on a personal level, every bad decision they make. Adding to her troubles, Michelle takes a job at a one-hour photo booth and has an affair with her 17 year-old boss, Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), which doesn’t end well, and Elizabeth brings stray dogs home, never expending a whole lot of energy looking for their owners. As for Jane, she develops a nasty infection as a result of her ill-advised surgery. Yet, in spite of their misfortunes, these characters find solace in one another, so much so that their various difficulties seem to just melt away.
Lovely and Amazing is a wonderfully acted, touching, humorous motion picture, and while it’s not always uplifting, the film is a passionate account of a family traversing the path of life, and how they maneuver the wrong turns they sometimes make along the way.