Lovely & Amazing (2001)

L-and-A

I was pleasantly surprised at how “Lovely & Amazing” exceeded all my expectations. We get a truly incredible heart-wrenching story about these women that face what everyday struggles involving body image. Director Nicole Holofcener also explores how petty these issues about image can be to a woman, and how it so ironically affects their lives inadvertently. “Lovely & Amazing” tells the tale intense tale of four women facing life and its many challenges. We meet Michelle (Katherine Keener) a woman in the crossroads of her life as she faces a dead-end marriage. She is an aging woman who is a struggling artist with a husband who shows basically no interest in her sexually.

They fight constantly and she seeks solace in a lonely teen outcast played by Jake Gylenhaal who works at a photo shop she takes a job in. In a stand-out role, Emily Mortimer plays Michelle’s younger sister who is a struggling actress holding on to small fame from bit parts and roles as she so desperately seeks comfort from her boyfriend who takes no interest in her work. She struggles with her life as she battles her own self-esteem and self-confidence. Meanwhile Brenda Blethyn plays mother Jane who is facing her age and loneliness as she gets liposuction to increase her attraction to men. Newcomer Raven Goodwin is Annie, the African-American adopted daughter of Jane who watches everything happen around her. She is constantly ostracized by Michelle who refuses to accept her into the family while she struggles to figure where she belongs in life and whether or not she should accept her culture or act as one her family.

I thought each of the characters were so well played and so complex, especially Emily Mortimer whose sub-plot was probably the best. She’s a beautiful woman whose entire self-image and state of mind is torn down by her career as an actress. She feels ugly in a world of shallow being and turmoil, and she seeks re-assurance by many people that fail to give to her and in the end pays for it. I also thought Goodwin was excellent as she struggles with both her body image and her conflicting cultures between her Caucasian family and African heritage. There’s no true answer to the woes in these women’s life, but they face them head on and roll with the punches. It’s a good movie with an excellent story that seems to focus on women’s self-image and their tenacity to cope with their own imperfections and where they belong in the world.