Lovely and Amazing

Lovely and Amazing is loathesome and hateful. The characters are narcissistic and vapid and masochistic, and dull while they’re at it.
In Mostly Martha, the chef tells off her philistine customers, which puts her on thin ice with her boss who has to weigh aggravation and respect. Martha can be a jerk, but a complicated jerk with redeeming qualities.
In Lovely and Amazing, a wannabe artist shops her overpriced crafts to LA boutiques and tells each of the proprietors to fuck off when they turn her down. She has an early school-age daughter, and the most interesting story she has to tell in any social situation is her natural childbirth, followed by her story about being homecoming queen. Her actress sister asks her boyfriend to critique her body, and then berates him for not taking seriously her anxieties about flabby upper arms. She needs to get a pair of dumbbells and stop whining.
The matriarch of the family has a crush on her incompetent plastic surgeon. Her one redeeming feature is her close relationship with an adopted daughter. The movie manages to undermine that by exploiting the various possible stereotypes about an upper-middle-class Jewish woman adopting a black girl; from awkward moments about sunscreen, to hair-straightening, to a taste for fast food. The grownups, black and white, are too busy being awkward about the situation to actually be parents and mentors.
The adult women characters are all linked with cold, disapproving, deceitful men. The attempt at romantic redemption is the wannabe artist’s fling with a 17-year old. At least they share a level of maturity.
I didn’t get the feeling that the film-makers had a distance on their material. The movie is an exaggerated version of real life, with more socially clueless and floridly insecure characters facing the same traps.
Why did this movie just make me mad, when I thought that Sideways was darkly funny? The self-destructive characters in Sideways were more self-destructive — one was an alcoholic, and one was a philanderer headed toward marriage. They were further along in unsuccessful artistic careers; one was a several-time unpublished novelist, the other a soap opera romantic lead past his prime.
Maybe because the movie was more literate, in structure and dialog and pictures. Maybe because the characters showed some passion along with their self-destruction. Maybe because the characters didn’t have kids, so their idiocies did not seem as cruel. Maybe because the movie took the characters’ deceptions — of women, of themselves — more seriously.

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