Lovely & Amazing won me over to a decent extent.
I found myself comparing it throughout to Friends With Money, which was made by the same filmmaker (Nicole Holofcener) later. They’re both primarily about women, they’re both mostly about people who are reasonably well off financially or at least are used to being in such circles, they’re both about gossip and art and money and relationships and that sort of thing that the conversations of people at that social level tend to turn to, they’re both whimsical mostly dramas with elements of comedy, and the dialogue in both is mostly well-written and well-delivered.
One important difference is I didn’t feel the kind of visceral dislike for the social and verbal styles of most of the main characters here as I did for those of Friends With Money.
This movie revolves around the lives of a 60-ish mother, her two grown daughters and their significant others, and her recently adopted young African American daughter. I found myself pretty consistently caring about their issues—their concerns about their bodies and sexual attractiveness, careers, and opportunities to express themselves artistically. I thought the at times tense relationship between the mother and the older daughter was handled especially nicely.
On the other hand, while I found the characters as a whole more likable, no single character captured me to the extent the Jennifer Aniston character did in Friends With Money.
Well, no adult character anyway. Because Raven Goodwin as the little girl (whom I recognized from the wonderful The Station Agent) steals every scene she’s in (as she does in The Station Agent for that matter). She’s just dynamite. Even when her character isn’t entirely adorable (though she usually is) but is being bratty, she plays it just right. And she even gets to be alone in the shot for the sweetly understated end of the film.
One element of the movie that’s handled very nicely is the unlikely fling between the 36 year old daughter and her 17 year old co-worker. Clearly there are humorous aspects to that—and those work well—but at the same time it’s strangely believable. It feels like that’s just how something like that could develop, and those scenes are insightful about what role it would play, what needs it would meet, in their emotional lives.
In general, the parts with that daughter probably worked a little better for me than the parts with the younger daughter, though to compensate for that, the younger daughter’s hot, and her nude scenes are much appreciated.
I have to give Holofcener credit. The subject matter of her films is not the kind of stuff I’m necessarily predisposed to find interesting, yet her style has clicked pretty darn well with me two out of two times. I’d give a modest to moderate recommendation to both of her films I’ve seen. I liked this one a little the better of the two.