Nicole Holofcener’s Lovely & Amazing I suppose would be categorized as a “chick flick.” Like her other movies, it’s primarily about women; the people in it mostly are reasonably well off financially or at least are used to being in such circles; it’s about gossip and art and money and relationships and the sorts of things that the conversations of people at that social level tend to turn to; it’s primarily a drama, but whimsical in style with elements of comedy; and the dialogue is mostly well-written and well-delivered.
The movie revolves around the lives of a 60-ish mother (Brenda Blethyn), her two grown daughters (Catherine Keener and Emily Mortimer) and their significant others, and her recently adopted young African American daughter (Raven Goodwin). I found myself pretty consistently caring about their issues–such as concerns about their bodies and sexual attractiveness, careers, and opportunities to express themselves artistically. The at times tense relationship between the mother and the older daughter (Keener) is handled especially nicely.
All the members of the ensemble cast are fine, but none stood out to me as being especially likable or grabbing my attention (as, say, the Jennifer Aniston character does in Holofcener’s Friends with Money).
Well, no adult anyway. Because Goodwin as the little girl (whom I recognized from the wonderful The Station Agent) steals every scene she’s in (as she does in The Station Agent for that matter). She’s just dynamite. Even when her character isn’t entirely adorable (though she usually is) but is being bratty, she plays it just right. And she even gets to be alone in the shot for the sweetly understated end of the film.
One element of the movie that’s handled surprisingly well is the unlikely fling between the 36 year old daughter (Keener) and her 17 year old co-worker. Clearly there are humorous aspects to that–and those work well–but at the same time it’s strangely believable. Instead of playing it purely for absurd humor, the film presents it in a way that feels like that’s just how something like that could develop. The scenes are insightful and respectful about what role the fling plays, what needs it meets, in the emotional lives of these two characters.
It’s not a film that I’d put on a “best of” list, but it’s a competent, intelligent, likable, entertaining film from start to finish. It’s worth a modest to moderate recommendation.