Jane Marks is the matriarch of a confused trio of daughters -- a heady brew of vanity, insecurity and humor -- that seem to have nothing in common. Former homecoming queen Michelle, the eldest daughter, is in a loveless marriage with a spouse who does not appreciate her decidedly obscure artistic endeavors. Younger sister Elizabeth, a self-doubting actress whose career is beginning to take off, compulsively takes home stray dogs, saving them whether or not they need to be saved. Only the youngest sister, Annie, an adopted African American eight-year-old, seems emotionally equipped to stand a chance at rising above the family's legacy. But on the threshold of what already promises to be a confusing adolescence, Annie has developed a preoccupation with her appearance - natural enough for a pre-teen - but given her adoptive family's history, quite possibly a hint of what's to come for the newest member of the Mark's family. Each of the women seeks redemption in her own haphazard way, but whatever salvation they find is illusory and short-lived. When complications from cosmetic surgery threaten Jane's well being, the family of comically self-absorbed women must quickly find room for each other in their lives to offer comfort and strength.
This smart, acidic comedy by Nicole Holofcener, the director of "Walking and Talking," could be described as a West Coast answer to "Sex and the City," minus that series' high-gloss glamour and erotic joie de vivre. Catherine Keener and Emily Mortimer are sisters, both attractive and in their 30's, who have major self-esteem problems and poor taste in men. Brenda Blethyn is their vain mother who develops complications after surgery for liposuction. The movie zeroes in on contemporary narcissism with a needling accuracy that illustrates exactly the way some people allow their insecurities to poison their intimate relationships. But once it has limned its characters (Ms. Keener's is by far the most vivid), it doesn't go anywhere in particular. — Stephen Holden
2002-06-28 | Stephen Holden | Read the New York Times Review of Lovely & Amazing