Finding Amanda (2008) **1/2*

Rated: R
Runtime: 1hr 40min
Director: Peter Tolan
Stars: Matthew Broderick, Brittany Snow, Maura Tierney
Genre: Drama
Language: English

A Tale of Two Addicts

In a Nutshell

Plot

Straight as an Arrow
Twisty

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear
Incomprehensible

Who's That?

Few Main Characters
Lots

Naughty Words

Mild
Foul

Naked people

None
Lots

Violence

Tame
Bloody

Tragedy and comedy may borrow from each other, but an equal balance between the two  - a free transfer from one line to the other  - is difficult to pull off.  In Finding Amanda, writer/director Peter Tolan does not quite succeed.  When the film works in a tragic way, you feel the sickening inevitability of Days of Wine and Roses.  When it works as comedy, you anticipate the giddy slapstick of A Day at the Races.  When it’s not working, Finding Amanda is simply predictable and sometimes a bit preachy.

Finding Amanda is about finding a bottom, a fundamentally ugly, messy, addictive bottom, and the plot is straightforward:  down.  Matthew Broderick (Taylor Peters), plays a dry drunk turned racetrack junky whose six figure career as a TV comedy series writer is circling the rim of the bowl.  Maura Tierney (Lorraine Mendon), is Taylor’s co-dependent wife, tied to a mobile phone that brings repeated proof of her painful suspicions about him.  Brittany Snow (Amanda), is Lorraine’s almost insufferably perky niece who has found joy and upward mobility as a Las Vegas hooker.

This film is pretty raw, studded with foul language, bared skin, and people behaving objectionably.  But, if that doesn’t put you off, it’s amusing in a world-weary, 21st Century way.  And, the acting is really good.

Broderick’s skills have more substance than the lighthearted fare he is currently typed for.  Watch him walk into the high end Vegas hotel where he will register under his wife’s name using a check he filched from her dresser drawer, soaking up the glitter, the recognition and subservience of the staff.  He gets an addict’s rush; you pity and condemn.  Each horse in the homestretch that disappoints this somewhat puffy, disheveled character triggers a unique physical and facial response, sometimes caught poignantly in profile.  Broderick’s chemistry with the other actors is potent and volatile, in the sense that it alters moment to moment.  The man is not boring in his schizophrenic efforts to get Amanda into rehab and make a killing at the casino.

Expectations for a Spears look-alike might not run high, but Brittany Snow delivers.  She’s “perfect”, to use her character’s favorite word and cite her probably most fatal flaw.  Snow manages to do and say everything a young, bright, damaged, self-centered and over-entitled 20-year-old is likely to do and say  - complete with upward inflection  -without making you hate her.   Snow’s monologue to Broderick, the tale of her initiation into “the life”, pulls no punches and never oversells.  The sight of Amanda’s uncle passed out on the floor at the end of this exposure is excruciating.

Tierney is a brick.  This describes the loving, long-suffering wife at her wits end as well as the sure-footed actress who fills her shoes.  Allen Wasserman plays, early on in the film, a shrink Tierney has badgered her husband to see.  Implanted, silent, in a black leather chair Wasserman drills with his eyes through his patient’s denial.  What a great cameo!   Steve Coogan has a classic Peter Lorre role as Jerry the casino manager, grubstaking Broderick to the bitter end.  Lorre was always more ominous than funny; Coogan has it the other way around.   Peter Facinelli as Greg, Amanda’s “hot” boyfriend, goes all out to portray an out-of-control adolescent in the body of a stud.

It’s kinda fun.  If you want to see the absolutely most tragic thing that could ever happen to a high stakes gambler on a binge — and get a laugh out of it — see Finding Amanda.

Lynn McCann's checkered professional life began with dance and has included singing and acting, writing and journalism, teaching and tutoring. A long career as a computer programmer is mercifully behind her and she looks forward to publishing a memoir, a biography, and a popular history of automation technology. She continues to perform as a singer, and leads New York City tours for Elderhostel.

Comments

Sandra said on December 5, 2012

 

My gym (or Crossfit Box) is hosting a wrooshkp with Anne Tierney and Steve Sierra on October 2nd. I’m hoping to make it there. Dara changed my life - I’m turning 40 in 2 weeks and active with Crossfit & brazilian jiu jitsu. I think age is just motivating me to do more. (jen)

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