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DVD ReviewAn essential aspect of the human condition in all walks of life is insecurity, which haunts our daily activities. The amount of uncertainty may vary from person to person, but it definitely exists in some form within each one of us. These feelings permeate the women of Lovely and Amazing, who each must battle their own doubts about work and family. Jane Marks (Brenda Blethyn, Secrets and Lies) lives very comfortably and has two adult daughters and one adopted African-American girl. However, concerns about her aging physique have caused her to undergo a liposuction procedure. She looks good for her age, but still believes this operation is necessary to enhance her self image.
Writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking) has crafted an engaging picture depicting unfortunate, realistic people who might be considered unlikable. Each major female character has her own set of personal issues that make situations very difficult, but also reveal a humorous side of the human condition. Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) is struggling in the cutthroat world of Hollywood acting. Her agent treats her with utter contempt and barely even feigns the appearance of acting friendly. Auditions have little to do with acting ability and seem more concerned with discovering "chemistry." Elizabeth spends her days worrying about every little inch of her body and feels inferior to the other actresses getting the prime roles. She also spends time caring for stray dogs, which varies considerably from the typical Hollywood concerns.
On the opposing side is Elizabeth's sister Michelle (Catherine Keener, Your Friends and Neighbors), who's stuck in a marriage devoid of love or sympathy. Her husband (Clark Gregg) hates the fact that she avoids working and uses her time creating miniature chairs and other oddball art pieces. She does get a job at a one-hour photo lab, but it creates more complications when her 17-year-old boss (Jake Gyllenhaal) develops a crush on her. The third sister is young Annie (Raven Goodwin)—an African-American girl adopted by Jane and dealing with being different from her sisters and friends. Her insecurities appear with overeating and a nasty mouth towards adults and other kids.
These descriptions may seem to promise a depressing film, but the final product offers a very different result. Holofcener's script deftly combines biting wit with moments of surprising compassion. The tale's success rests largely with the excellent cast, who bring both emotional weight and humor to the material. Keener delivers stinging lines with her usual flair and gives a wonderfully tough performance. British actress Mortimer will not be as familiar to audiences, but her role is possibly the most difficult. Her nude scene with Dermot Mulroney had to be very difficult, but she pulls it off and delivers a stunning moment. Goodwin also does especially well and avoids the pratfalls common for child actors.
Lovely and Amazing conveys a unique, enjoyable look at a family devoid of strong male figures. The husband, boyfriend, and other guys rarely connect with the March women and remain focused on their own activities. The ability to connect emotionally must exist somewhere in the girls' hearts, but their guys never try to locate it. Luckily, the story does conclude with some refreshing scenes, but the bonds remain insular within the family. Once they learn to trust each other, the remaining difficulties might become solvable. This picture offers no easy solutions, which leads to a more realistic and engaging story.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Lovely and Amazing utilizes an effective 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that contains few defects or blemishes. The story generally takes place indoors and lacks any visually stunning scenes, but it still provides a decent experience. Some minor grain does appear during the darker moments, but it rarely distracts from the overall presentation.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: This release features a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that offers few moments of audio complexity. However, it does provide clear dialogue, which is the most important element for this type of film. The rear speakers generally remain in the background, but the poignant score does come into play at several key moments. This track rarely proves to be very noticeable, but it does a solid job throughout the movie.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsLovely and Amazing stands among the cinema gems that are nearly impossible to categorize. Does it want to be a comedy? A character study? A family drama? In fact, this movie falls within all of those categories and none in particular. It does contain some imperfect elements, but they shift into the background due to strong acting and inventive writing.
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