December 11, 2002 -- "Lovely and Amazing" is another one of those estrogen overdose movies like "Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood," except that the acting and character development are a lot better. It is also better written, even though the plot doesn't really go anywhere. It is more of a character study.
This film is about the relationships of two women with their mother and with their husbands or boyfriends. The mother, Jane Marks, played by Brenda Blethyn of "Saving Grace," is undergoing liposuction surgery in the hospital and she asks her daughters to take care of her young adopted daughter, Annie (Raven Goodwin). The two daughters, Michelle (Catherine Keener of "Death to Smoochy") and Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer of "The Kid") are quite different. Elizabeth is an actress with a self-image problem, and Michelle is a housewife who is jealous of everyone. Elizabeth seeks the approval of others and has trouble with the rejection inherent in the entertainment business. Michelle seeks to tear everyone else down to her level with cutting remarks. Both are insecure.
Elizabeth's boyfriend, a journalist, is insensitive and unsupportive. She finds a new boyfriend, Kevin McCabe (Dermot Mulroney of "My Best Friend's Wedding"), another actor, who seems better suited to her, but he is a bit of a twit. Michelle's husband is unfaithful and indifferent to her. She finds a boyfriend, Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal of "The Good Girl") who is way too young for her, but at least he loves her. None of the male characters in the movie are important in the least. They are all two-dimensional. The men are either mean-spirted, dumb or too young to know what is going on. This is a pure chick flick. Nothing much happens in the movie, but we do learn a lot about the two daughters, Elizabeth and Michelle, by how they react to situations and to the other characters in the film. The acting is very good in the film, and the direction is sharp too.
Annie's behavior is bizarre. She seems to be bothered by the fact that she is a black who has been adopted by a white woman. She also has a problem with the fact she is fat. She gets her hair straightened against her mother's wishes. She runs away and tells racist jokes. She has a strained relationship with Michelle and Elizabeth, and with her friend in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization, Lorraine (Aunjanue Ellis of "Undercover Brother"). Everyone has a hard time dealing with Annie, but she doesn't seem to be bothered much by that. Annie's self-image problems seem to blend in poorly with the self-image problems of the other characters in the movie. The whole story seems a bit too Hollywood and a bit too much separated from real life. Nevertheless the movie works, in part because it doesn't take any of this seriously. There is a lot of humor in the situations that come up in the film and that makes it easier to swallow. There is also an extended, full nude scene, but it is done in such a clinical fashion that it isn't pornographic. This film rates a C+.
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