Screened as part of NZIFF 2002
"The Marks family is a tightly-knit quartet of women. Jane is the affluent matriarch whose three daughters seem to have nothing in common except for a peculiar sort of idealism. Setting the tone of vanity and insecurity, Jane is undergoing cosmetic surgery to alter her figure, but serious complications put her health in real danger. Former homecoming queen Michelle, the eldest daughter, has two kids and an alienated husband who thinks Michelle’s obscure little art objects are a waste of time. Despite her loving and delicious husband Paul and an acting career that is beginning to take off, younger sister Elizabeth is timid and insecure, and habitually relieves her trepidation by taking in stray dogs. Only the youngest sister, Annie, an adopted African American eight-year-old, stands a chance of avoiding the family legacy of anxious self-absorption, if only her intelligence and curiosity will see her through what promises to be a confusing adolescence. Each of the women seeks redemption in her own haphazard way.
With this superlative cast, it’s obvious that one of the strengths of this film is the excellent performances. Blethyn, Keener and Mortimer are accomplished actors who seem to live inside the skins of their characters, and the young Goodwin sparkles with confidence and bright humour. LeGros and Dermot Mulroney (as the handsome movie star with whom Elizabeth auditions) are perfectly dreamy. But in addition to the splendid ensemble acting, the film also boasts a script that combines gentle humour with intense intimacy and affectionate sympathy for the hectic neuroses of the four hapless women. As writer-director, Holofcener achieves an impressive follow-up to her first film, Walking and Talking, creating a bittersweet comedy that unfailingly strikes notes of its own finely observed truths." — Kay Armatage, Toronto Film Festival