out of five
: 90 mins
Brilliantly acted independent film with a terrific cast and a superb script that features perhaps what is destined to be the most talked-about scene of the year.
New York director Nicole Holofcener's second film is the follow-up to her 1996 debut Walking & Talking, which also featured Catherine Keener. In the interim, she's honed her craft writing and directing various episodes of Sex and The City, and Lovely & Amazing is all the better as a result.
Three Neurotic Women
The plot centres on three neurotic women. Jane Marks (Brenda Blethyn) is a middle-aged mother with two grown-up daughters and an adopted younger African-American daughter, Annie (played by newcomer Raven Goodwin). When Jane goes into surgery, the daughters find themselves having to bond with Annie for the first time.
Meanwhile, the older daughter Michelle (Catherine Keener) tires of trying to sell her bizarre artwork and takes a job in a photo centre in an attempt to convince her irritable husband that she's 'grown up'. Unfortunately, in doing so, she starts to fancy her teenaged boss (played by rising star Jake Gyllenhaal).
At the same time, intensely neurotic Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) tries to pursue a career as an actress and has a revealing encounter with a self-obsessed movie star (Dermot Mulroney).
Orgy Of Hugging
In fact, the plot is less important than the various incidents that occur throughout the film. This is not an overblown melodrama that is destined to end in an orgy of hugging to the strains of a syrupy score, but rather a nicely observed little independent film with a great script and terrific roles for its four actresses.
All four central performances are wonderful, with Blethyn and Mortimer
nailing the American accent with no trouble at all. Keener is her usual
kooky self to delightful effect and Raven Goodwin makes an impressive debut as Annie.
However, Mortimer is the standout - one scene in particular calls for her to be entirely naked onscreen for several minutes, a scene that is devastating in its emotional intensity. (In fact, Mortimer is already receiving rave reviews for this scene alone and they're richly deserved.)
The supporting performances are good, too, particularly Gyllenhaal (as The Luckiest Photo-Shop Guy In The World), whose scenes with Keener are among the funniest in the film, and Mulroney's preening, cheerfully sleazy movie-star.
In short, Lovely & Amazing is well-worth checking out and provides the perfect antidote to Summer Blockbuster Fatigue. Highly recommended.