April 6, 2009
We watched the 2001 independent film “Lovely and Amazing.” This is my kind of movie: Virtually nothing happens. It’s a character study of a mother (Brenda Blethyn) and her two birth daughters and one adopted daughter (Emily Mortimer, Catherine Keener, and Raven Goodwin). All four have problems with self-esteem. Enough already with the self-esteem crises, yeah? But writer-director Nicole Holocefner plays this just about right, with a delicate balance of comedy and drama. And I love this – she makes it all right to want to smack every one of the principal characters into the real world even as one feels their pain and gets some sense of its origins. Holocefner may have written the part of the mother with Brenda Blethyn in mind. It’s the kind of poor-soul role that Blethyn excels in. Raven Goodwin, who wasn’t even 10 years old when this film was made, gives a very credible performance as a young black girl trying to fit into a white world. Jake Gyllenhaal has a fun role as a teenager who falls for Catherine Keener’s needy character, and Dermot Mulroney, playing a film star, has a unique scene with a naked Emily Mortimer – an actress with no confidence in herself – who insists that he tell her everything that is right and wrong with her appearance. That scene could have been exploitative and crass, but not the way Holocefner and the actors handled it.