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By Ellen Marshall | June 28, 2002

In this era of fluffy, big-budget Hollywood “chick flicks”, it’s pretty refreshing to find a film that genuinely deals with women, family, self-image and survival. Nicole Holofcener (who’s first film was 1997’s “Walking & Talking”) not only directed and wrote the script, but in true indie fashion, shot “Lovely & Amazing” on digital video.
The story centers around an insecure mother Jane (Brenda Blethyn), who’s three misguided daughters are thrown together when her liposuction surgery goes awry. Eldest daughter Michelle (Catherine Keener) is a self-centered, yet insecure artist in an unsatisfying marriage. When she takes a job at a photo shop out of desperation, a fling with a 17 year old (Jake Gyllenhaal) ensues. Middle daughter Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) is a pretty, but desperately insecure actress with an inattentive, jerk boyfriend (James LeGros) and a compulsion for taking in stray dogs. The youngest daughter is an adopted 8 year-old African-American (Raven Goodwin), who is left in the care of her much older sisters, and is struggling with issues about her weight, race and hairstyle.
Each woman in this family is dealing with insecurities in her own way, but because of Holofcener’s subtle, yet careful attention to the emotional details of her characters, we are sympathetic to them even as they are unable to connect. There are a few brave and humorous moments, like the wonderful scene of Emily Mortimer in full-frontal nudity, begging a snobby actor (Dermot Mulroney) to assess her body truthfully, while she stands listening as various emotions cross her face. The ending seems to just drop off, but the delicate balance of sadness, sharpness and quirkiness gives this loosely woven story a sensibility that you just won’t find in something like The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

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