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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
More Movie Lessons
by Betty Jo Tucker

Like most movie addicts, all I know is what I see in the movies. By watching Lovely & Amazing, I learned three valuable lessons about women and self-esteem. Naturally, I feel duty bound to share them with my sisters everywhere.

Lesson Number One. If you’re a wannabe actress and insecure about your appearance, never ask a man to tell you what’s wrong with your nude body. Trust me on this. He will tell you – and you’ll feel even worse.

Lesson Number Two. If you’re a thirtysomething in a loveless marriage, resist the temptation to seduce a 17-year-old, even if he does look like Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko). You could be arrested.

Lesson Number Three. If you’re a mom with two grown daughters and an adopted African American 8-year-old, don’t try liposuction as "an improvement" – no matter how handsome the surgeon appears to you. Something terrible might go wrong with the operation, causing you to lose more than those extra pounds you’ve put on through the years.

Seriously, folks, is there a group of more self-absorbed  women on film than the mother and daughters featured in Lovely & Amazing? I don’t think so. Well, maybe in Dr. T & the Women, but I’m trying to forget I saw that miserable movie. Brenda Blethyn, Catherine Keener, Emily Mortimer, and Raven Goodwin play members of Lovely & Amazing’s dysfunctional family. Nothing wrong with their performances -- it’s the whiney characters they portray that bug me.

Blethyn (Secrets and Lies) is the mom who seeks liposuction, Keener (Being John Malkovich) the daughter with a stagnant marriage, Mortimer (Disney’s The Kid) the budding actress, and Goodwin the adopted youngster. All convey their neuroses quite convincingly. Goodwin’s Annie emerges as the most sympathetic of the group. Despite her "tell-it-like-it-is" attitude, I felt sorry for her and wondered how either of Annie’s ill-equipped adoptive sisters could take care of her during their mother’s hospitalization. It’s obvious that being raised by a white woman obsessed with physical appearance has contributed to serious identity problems for this chubby youngster with nappy hair. To get attention, Annie frightens people when she’s swimming with a trick called "the dead float." This is supposed to be a comedy? Yes, but I found it about as funny as a dying plant.

Nevertheless, writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking) forced me to think more deeply about the way a woman’s body image influences her entire personality. In today’s weight-conscious society, even skinny women think they’re too fat. Waif-like actresses such as Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) and Lara Flynn Boyle (The Practice) as well as ultra-thin super models have become our hallmarks of beauty. Not too long ago, Oprah Winfrey’s diet became the big news of the day. I buy "low-fat" everything, hoping a miracle will turn me into an older version of Gwyneth Paltrow.

Although raising questions rather than presenting answers, Holofcener seems to be telling women to stop worrying about themselves so much and start helping each other. That’s the only way to become truly lovely and amazing. And the men? Holofcener’s Lovely & Amazing is not about them. They make their own movies.

(Released by Lions Gate Films and rated "R" for language and nudity. Opens June 28 in Los Angeles and New York City.)

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