Lovely & Amazing | Chicago Reader

Lovely & Amazing

Given her interest in women's lives and everyday neuroses, Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking) could easily be lumped with the Ephron sisters, but that would undersell her strengths as a writer and director. Lovely and Amazing, her second feature, revolves around a mother (Brenda Blethyn), her two biological daughters (Emily Mortimer and Catherine Keener, the movie's anchor), and the African-American preteen (Raven Goodwin) she's adopted as a sort of late-life project. Each of these women deals in very different ways with seemingly trite self-help-magazine issues—all have body-image problems, all have thwarted artistic aspirations, all worry neurotically about their relationships with men and one another. Keener's character uses lah-di-dah flipness as a defense, but when she drifts into a crazy fling with a teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) we see how broken and desperate she really is. What keeps all this from being trite and self-indulgent is Holofcener's willingness to make her characters' neuroses unattractive and self-destructive instead of cute and endearing. 91 min.

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