Lovely & Amazing  (2002) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white:

Lovely & Amazing (2001) is the second feature film from director/writer Nicole Holofcener, and there is no doubt that she knows how to make movies. It is essentially a slice of life story depicting the insecurities that all women have and usually don't show. The story centers around a mother, Brenda Blethyn, her two grown daughters, Catherine Keener and Emily Mortimer, and an adopted black girl, Raven Goodwin. Mom is having liposuction to finally lose her gut, Keener is a wannabe artist in a loveless marriage with a husband who is a stereo salesman, and cheats on her with her best friend. She is angry, and demonstrates her anger against anyone who crosses her path. Mortimer is an aspiring actress who is deeply insecure about her appearance. Young Goodwin is a real butterball with an eating disorder, whose biological mother was a crackhead, and who really wants to be white.

Keener's surgery has complications. Blethyn takes a job in a one hour photo store, and ends up screwing her 17 year old boss. Mortimer chases off her boyfriend with her insecurities, and beds the star of a series she was not cast for after a decent audition. After the sex, which we don't see, she asks him to give her an honest appraisal of her body. This, of course, is a much more serious version of the question all men dread hearing from their wife, "Do I look fat to you?" She poses stark naked for him while he gives an honest appraisal. Indeed, I got a few laughs from this film, seeing these women effortlessly place men in uncomfortable positions that I have been in myself. For the most part, the film was not really interesting for me, and I couldn't relate to these women and their problems.

It was no surprise to me that women at IMDB rate this 8.1, with a 9.0 from girls 18 and under, while men say 7.1, with 6.7 from men aged 30 to 44. In other words, it is a chick flick, but is well made enough that it still caries an overall 7.3. Mrs. Tuna liked it, saying that you get to see a side of women, accurately portrayed, that they usually hide.

Roger Ebert adored it, awarding a perfect 4 stars. It wasn't clear to me from his review why he awarded it his highest rating, to her than the fact that he liked the honest portrayal of flawed women who were out there trying. Berardinelli says 3 stars, praising the character development from the roles carefully crafted by Holofcener.


Emily Mortimer is nearly topless in the opening scene, covered only by a sheer gauze. In a later scene, she is completely naked from every angle when she asks a famous actor to evaluate her body.

Scoop's comments in yellow:

Stephen Holden of the New York Times seemed to sum it up perfectly in one sentence:

"As smart and observant as it is, Lovely and Amazing doesn't really go anywhere."

As I see it, the film has one very overwhelming positive, and that strength carried it to solid reviews, despite a limited concept of dramatic structure. That strength is that the film portrays women as they really are. Most films, being written and directed by men, seem to use women as plot devices or fantasies, and picture them as men see them or wish them to be. Because this film portrays genuine, identifiable women with familiar concerns and neuroses, it attracted many admirers.

The actress character in this film is so much like my ex-wife, Jennie, a good person, beautiful, sexy, and obsessively insecure for no apparent reason, that I wondered if the authors actually based the character on her. I heard precise conversations which we have had, and I re-experienced the same irritation and embarrassment that I felt back then.

The central theme of the film is that women define themselves by appearances and the reactions of men. The mother wants liposuction even though nobody sees her naked. The actress daughter is obsessed with her looks. The housewife daughter is so desperate for male attention that she ends up necking in the back seat of a car with a young boy, even though she is thirty-something.

The film treats its characters with a combination of sympathy and contempt. The Christine Keener character is somehow simultaneously sympathetic and unlikable. She's filled with anger, condescension, and ignorance - she tells her African-American step-sister that she doesn't need sunblock because she's already brown. She's completely delusional and lazy - after years of marriage, the closest she comes to making a living is to create some arts and crafts on the level of summer camp projects, and because of these projects, she defines herself as an "artist".  When she finally takes a routine retail job, she ends up having an affair with the 17 year old boy who manages her department. Despite all these "issues", as they say these days, we sympathize with her because her husband is emotionally and sexually neglectful, and because her life has gone bad. She was the homecoming queen in high school, yet she has done nothing since graduation. Living in the same town where she grew up, she often runs into the nerdy, unpopular girls from her class, who are now successful professionals. Like the actress sister, this character reminded me of women I know. In fact, we have a surplus of these people in Austin, if you have a shortage in your community.

The problem, though, at least for people who demand a semblance of structure in their films, is that everything is simply abandoned in mid-stream. The film ends at some arbitrary point which is certainly not an end as I define one, since all the issues raised by the plotting are simply abandoned. For example, one of the characters has been accused of and arrested for a very serious felony, statutory rape, but we have no idea what results from that.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1.

  • cast and crew interviews

It is a well-respected movie which garnered good reviews almost across the board, but your enjoyment of it will depend on your interest in and/or tolerance level in two areas:

1. It's a chick-flick. It was made by women for women. The 1.0 difference between the male and female scores at IMDb is official estrogen territory.

2. The structure is pure slice-of-life. If you do get interested in their lives, you'll find that every plot thread is left hanging.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Entertainment Weekly B.

  • UK consensus: about three stars Daily Mail 4/10, Daily Telegraph 7/10, Independent 7/10, The Guardian 6/10, The Observer 8/10, The Times 6/10, Evening Standard 7/10, The Sun 7/10, The Express 8/10, The Mirror 6/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDb voters score it 7.3/10, Guardian voters 5.9/10, Yahoo users 3.5/5
  • with their dollars: it was not very commercial. It grossed $4 million in the USA.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, about equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Tuna says., "although I ultimately didn't really enjoy the film, it is basically an estrogen centric character driven comedy/drama, yet has high scores from demographics that would generally not enjoy this sort of film, so the proper score is probably B-.: Scoop says, " I think it is a C+. It is at the top of the line in its genre, but it was just impossible for me to appreciate the humor or to sympathize with the characters. If you don't like chick-flicks, you won't like this one either."

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