Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Taylor Peters (Matthew Broderick) is by just about anybody’s measure an insufferable asshole. Part of this could be because writer / director Peter Nolan gave his lead character a girl’s name, but really it just seems to be the way that Taylor is. He’s a recovering alcoholic, a recovering drug addict, is a top writer for one of the worst shows on Network Television and appreciates it not one little bit, despite the fact that this job was given to him as an opportunity to salvage the career he’s already pissed most of away. He has a long suffering wife in Lorraine (Maura Tierney) who just wants one thing from her husband and that is for him to be honest with her, but alas Taylor also lies pathologically. Now Taylor is a compulsive gambler. He would argue with you on this, and though we all want to go where everybody knows your name, but if that place where everybody knows your name is Las Vegas, Nevada… then you have a gambling problem. For real.

Now the reason we mention Las Vegas is that Taylor needs to show Lorraine that he’s on the road to becoming a changed man. It seems that his twenty-year-old niece Amanda, the daughter of his wife’s sister, has moved to Vegas and is now a hooker. The wife and sister-in-law figure she must be on drugs so they reserve a room for her at some fancy rehab center and all of his own volition, Ferris Beuller decides to take a couple days off and makes the two and half hour drive to Las Vegas to find Amanda. Sort of. Actually he’s there to gamble and in between horse races, he may venture out and look for Amanda should he run out of money.

Eventually Taylor does track down Amanda (Brittany Snow), and the rumors are certainly true as he finds the perky blonde soliciting clients by the elevators of a seedy hotel. But though Amanda may be a whore, she’s quite an unapologetic one as she claims that this beats working at the IHOP any day of the week. What will follow will

be us tagging along, witnessing some fear and loathing in Las Vegas as two incredibly fractured and messed people attempt to justify to themselves, and each other, as to why their lives are really wonderful and not nearly as fractured and messed up as it would appear to us watching on the outside looking in.

One of the complaints I heard about this film when reading up on it was that some people had a hard time getting around the fact that a woman who looks like and acts like the character of Amanda would have a job as a prostitute, and also have a boyfriend as lousy and as emotionally and physically abusive as the one she had, played to crazed asshole perfection by Peter Facinelli. If I had a problem with the movie, that wouldn’t have been one of them simply because of the low-self esteem factor. I’m sure most of us seen some seemingly together woman with an asshole of a husband or boyfriend, or at least seen a situation like this on television, or perhaps you’ve seen a porno movie and wondered ‘what in the hell prompted this woman… to do that… on videotape?’ It’s called low self esteem and I think Peter Tolan wrote the character of Amanda so that she typifies the results of having low self esteem. Men suffer from low self-esteem too, it just seems that the ramifications of women suffering from low self-esteem lead to prostitution, staying in abusive relationships, pornography and overbearing thoughts that this is the best they can do. Young Brittany Snow did a fine job of portraying that character in Amanda, particularly when we were given hints about her previous life and childhood, and to that end, ‘Finding Amanda’ felt authentic and on point to me.

This was an interesting performance for Matthew Broderick as Taylor Peters who is probably the most unlikable and unsympathetic character that he’s ever played, at least of the movies he’s been in that I’ve seen, and that would include ‘Election’s’ Jim McAllister. What is missing from this character that all of those others possess is that Broderick Boyish Charm which may finally be waning at the age of forty six. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I think this is one of the best roles Broderick has had since… well… ‘War Games’. Okay, maybe that’s going too far back, but ‘War Games’ did rock. This was a character that couldn’t get out of his way to save his own life and all the boyish charm in the world wasn’t going to help Taylor, and watching him collapse was at once sad and entertaining all at the same time.

‘Finding Amanda’ was an oddly engaging movie that is really difficult to pin down. Yes, it was entertaining and with the addition of Steve Coogan as a smarmy pit boss it had some great humor. It also had fine and poignant performances from the both Broderick and Snow, but it was also a very sad film and one that felt little bit empty. Still definitely worth seeing if one gets the chance.

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