A review of “Lovely and Amazing” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for nudity, language

Run Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

 

 

A trio of neurotic siblings operating on emotionally shaky autopilot make for realistic, and therefore awkwardly comic, viewing.  Jane Marks (Brenda Blethyn) weighs in as mom, a thoughtful, plus-size woman struggling with an adopted, pre-adolescent African American daughter (Raven Goodwin as Annie) and two grown girls burdened with surprisingly low levels of confidence. Determined to make some changes of her own, Jane opts for cosmetic liposuction to shed a few unwanted pounds.

Sisters Michelle (Catherine Keener) and Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) are neck and neck in the self-esteem-in-the-dumps derby.  Michelle exists in a loveless marriage with an indifferent spouse who practically sneers at her eclectic artistic endeavors.  Elizabeth is on the cusp of a successful acting career, but her lack of a healthy body-image is a seemingly insurmountable hurdle.

 “Lovely’s” strength lies in its ability to stress the unremarkable and make it interesting. L.A. is the ideal backdrop for people attempting (and failing to make) meaningful human connections.  Annie coming to terms with her color and her pre-teen image.  Michelle, in all her bitter glory, taking lust by the horns and flipping the bird to her marital oaths.  Elizabeth wrangling with the acting biz and its arrogant, exaggerated sense of importance.  Siblings uneasily uniting when an unexpected medical misfortune demands solidarity. Cinderella transformations are left where they belong: on the cutting room floor.

Keener gives her typical A-plus performance (meaning unusually atypical) as a hostile, supercilious wife and mother who can’t see the forest for the trees. Painfully real scripting delivers a bleak daily narrative that you can laugh or cry along with.  Ain’t life a bitch?