Finding Amanda ***
"Finding Amanda" is a dark comedy about gambling, drinking, strippers, hookers-you name it. Really bottom of the barrel stuff in terms of dark humor. And yet there wasn't a single moment throughout its rather smart screenplay-filled with some four letter words and few sexually explicit conversations-where I felt dirty watching it, or felt like it was dirty for the sake of being dirty, or it was trying to cross a line to be edgy. Everything really seemed in place and earned in a way, enough for the third act to be fittingly poignant and even somewhat sweet. Matthew Broderick is one of those actors-much like John Cusack-who the audience just has a tendency to want to root for him and want him to win. Take Cusack in "The Ice Harvest," a film where he lies and cheats and steals, and yet in the end he still looks like a good guy. The same goes for Broderick's Taylor Peters, a TV writer who is finally getting his recognition back on a somewhat low rated sitcom starring Ed Begley Jr. Taylor had a few rough years where he was addicted to drugs and booze, but is starting to get on his feet with the help of his wife Lorraine (played by Maurs Tierny.) However Taylor can't seem to stop gambling, and will easily throw a few thousand dollars at the track.
When his wife is ready to leave him because the gambling is getting out of hand, Taylor decides to try and show her that he can control it. And the perfect opportunity arrives when he learns that his twenty year old niece Amanda (played by Brittany Snow) is working as a hooker in Las Vegas. He vows to go to Vegas, find Amanda, bring her to a rehab center in Malibu, and not gamble a single cent while being there-a rule that he breaks almost the second he makes it to Vegas.
Broderick really does give a silently terrific performance here, really making us interested in this character from the first second he appears on screen. He turns this somewhat seedy and sick man into someone to care about, and I was absorbed in all of the aspects of his character-from all of the lies he tells all the way up to the somewhat poignant truths that he delivers in the films final scenes. Brittany Snow also does a good job as Amanda-a young girl filled with hope and love and really living a life that she doesn't deserve, and yet she and her uncle share so many of the same painful life choices, and both of them play this relationship aspect of the film so perfectly. Both also deliver some of the real crisp dialogue-written by director Peter Tolan-well, offering some real laugh out loud moments. Many of which also come from a casino worker played by Steve Coogan, one of those guys that tries to be everyones best friend when he really doesn't give a damn.
And than the ending, which really doesn't provide full closure for either Taylor or Amanda, really is quite fitting and effective. I don't want to ruin anything, but it really does provide a fitting conclusion to the relationship aspect of the film, which really ends up being the most important-how Taylor and Amanda end up helping each other find happiness and contentment-an irony considering how they both have made so many bad choices in their lives. This is a point driven home by a short monologue Broderick delivers towards the end.
Sadly "Finding Amanda" did not find any kind of real audience when it was released last week, and I saw it to late in its one week in theatres to really try and recommend it as much as possible. But that is why they invented DVD, and this one is coming out in the middle of September. It really is a well scripted and well acted dark comedy, delivering some moments of edgy humor, but never to a degree where it gets excessive or feels un-needed. In this world of somewhat seedy activities, the language really does fit. It's a good film, and one of the more refreshing offerings of the year so far.