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Insights distinguish 'Lovely' from other indie films

| Friday, July 19, 2002

You could hurt yourself dodging all the denial in "Lovely & Amazing."

Not that the Marks sisters and their mom don't confront themselves.

They're self-absorbed, especially about their bodies, and too inwardly directed to make much of relationships.

Jane (Brenda Blethyn), the divorced matriarch, is laying $10,000 out of pocket for liposuction that will relieve her of 10 pounds.

Dr. Crane (Michael Nouri) might see the flesh but not her unsolicited interest in him.

Jane's 36-year-old daughter, Michelle (Catherine Keener), is a female variation on the former high school jock who has little else to offer and therefore peaks way too early.

She's a former homecoming queen lost in an unfulfilling marriage to the unfaithful Bill (Clark Gregg). They have a daughter who is off doing her thing while Michelle sits mesmerized, with milk and cookies, watching the juvenile "Hickory Dog" on TV.

She makes odd, worthless crafts and snaps caustically at shopkeepers who won't buy them.

Her slightly younger sister, Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer), is an exceptionally insecure, narcissistic, attractive actress who can't understand why lover Paul (James Le Gros) would be more focused on his own writing career.

Her romantic audition with TV actor Kevin McCabe (Dermot Mulroney) is comically inept because she's too self-aware to relax. She's a rescuer, like her mother, but of dogs.

And then there's Annie (Raven Goodwin), a plump 8-year-old who is the biological daughter of a crack addict. In late middle age, Jane has adopted Annie, whose bids for attention include faking death.

When Jane's liposuction recovery goes awry, her three daughters reluctantly rearrange their priorities, leading to a displacement of their anger and uncertainty.

Michelle even takes a job as an $8-an-hour photo store employee, working for 17-year-old Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose mom has working radar.

"Lovely & Amazing," which plays like a lightweight "Secrets and Lies," was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener ("Walking and Talking") with a good ear for the way life-sized people communicate and repel each other.

With its insights into the price of self-absorption, it distinguishes itself among recent independent American ensemble comedy-dramas and suggests Holofcener has a voice worth hearing.

'Lovely & Amazing'


Director: Nicole Holofcener
Stars: Emily Mortimer, Catherine Keener, Brenda Blethyn
MPAA Rating: R, for language and nudity
Where: Denis in Mt. Lebanon; Manor in Squirrel Hill
stars

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