women in rock

lovely and amazing (nicole holofcener, 2001)

Lovely and Amazing is neither, and I can now join the hundreds of other people who have made that statement (the other hundreds having begun by saying Lovely and Amazing is both). Which isn't to say that it's bad, but I don't know what to make of it, nor am I likely the right person to be trying to make something of it. By that I don't mean I can't get the movie because I'm a guy, although it is a women-centered movie with male characters who mostly suck. I mean that the fairly extreme neuroses-not-psychoses of the main characters hit too close to home for me to be impartial.

Nonetheless, I'll take a stab and making sense of the movie. It's well-done, and the acting is generally brave and honest. But the main characters, especially Catherine Keener's, are not very likable. I don't think the film's title is meant to be ironic ... I think we're supposed to see these women as lovely and amazing not only in spite of their flaws but also because of them. And I'll give the movie points for allowing them to be at least as flawed as they are adorable ... too often the neuroses in movies like this are meant to be lovable, but in this film, they are often just plain aggravating. Too much so for me ... I never warmed to them as characters, even as I admired the movie for making them realistic.

The film's best and most unsettling scene comes when Emily Mortimer's character subjects her body to a ruthlessly clinical assessment, whereby she stands nude for the man she's just slept with and asks him to break down the pros and cons of her body like she was a show horse. In that short scene, the movie makes all of its necessary points about women, body image, the demands of both "real life" and celebrity, and men's complicit role in the whole big mess. Since the movie is 89 minutes long, though, we're still left with 80+ minutes of a different kind of uncomfortable viewing experience, where you learn a lot about people only to find you wish you didn't know the stuff you've learned.

Still, if ever there was a movie tailor-made for a "your mileage may vary" caveat, it's this one. It's easy to imagine some viewers finding Lovely and Amazing to be, um, lovely and amazing. I'm just not one of them.


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