The two adult sisters in Lovely & Amazing both carry the gene of perfectionism – the compulsive tendency, that is, to view everything around them as imperfect, most painfully and amusingly themselves. This is the first movie by the writer-director Nicole Holofcener since her acclaimed 1996 comedy ”Walking and Talking,” but ”Lovely & Amazing” has little of the earlier film’s cuddly, reassuring gender camaraderie; it’s both subtler and spikier in its perception of the ways that modern women can sabotage the freedoms they crave. The movie just about bristles with the sound of snippy, judgmental narcissists trying to pass off their neediness as charm.
As a bored housewife who turns lashing out at the world into a kind of neurotic blood sport, Catherine Keener, from ”Being John Malkovich,” remains bracing in her flirtatious hostility; she’s like a contempo screwball heiress who forgot to take her Prozac. Emily Mortimer, as her snappishly entitled actress sibling, makes you see the frailty beneath her diva-ness, and Brenda Blethyn is understated (for once) as the matriarch whose experiment in liposuction becomes a cautionary disaster of vanity. This trio is like a looser, funnier version of the family of wrecks in Woody Allen’s ”Interiors,” though Holofcener, it must be said, is still a lot better at creating captivatingly screwed-up women than she is at figuring out new and improved ways for them to “grow.”