My movie today was Lovely & Amazing
, the second feature from sitcom director Nicole Holofcener (whose pilot for the NBC show Leap of Faith
was brilliantly directed, but whose Sex and the City
episodes I've avoided because I think that show sucks), following her fantastic debut, 1996's Walking & Talking
. This film is nearly as good -- again we have Catherine Keener just kicking ass (she's easily one of America's best and most underrated actresses), as well as fine work from Emily Mortimer (the "perfect" date Hugh Grant blows off in Notting Hill
for, just, not being Julia Roberts), Brenda Blethyn, and Keener's real life hubbie Dermot Mulroney.
The movie makes wonderful observations about women in 21st century America, drawing the line between being heavy-handed and glib. Holofcener's dialogue is razor sharp, using subtext like a machine gun that makes every scene edge-of-your-seat exciting even when someone is just giving someone else a back rub. A favorite line: "You're not going to die. You're going to have a flat stomach."
The flick is about appearance versus confidence, as well as the substitutes we have for love and the love we give in return. Blethyn plays the mother of three daughters, Mortimer, Keener, and an adopted 8 year-old black girl who wants to be white (she wants straight hair and Blethyn's skin tone). When Blethyn goes in for liposuction surgery, Mortimer becomes more obsessed with her figure (she's an actress), and Keener feels so old she seeks her youth by having an affair with Donnie Darko. [By the way, Jake Gyllenhaal is spending this summer sleeping with older married women -- after this, there's Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl
My only flaws are that the digital video looks pretty lame in places (why not just shoot it on 35 or super 16?) and that the characters of Keener's husband and Mortimer's boyfriend (James LeGros) are poorly developed with little motivation or action. But overall it's a very satisfying watch, a well observed, tremendously realistic character study about women who are discovering that they want to look like someone else so they don't have to feel like who they are.