Finding Amanda

Written and Directed by Peter Tolan, Finding Amanda stars Matthew Broderick as Taylor Peters, a struggling television writer who also has a compulsion for lying, gambling, and alcohol. Taylor is on the verge of loosing his job, and struggles to commit to the therapy he has been undergoing. After being caught in a lie about his gambling, and trying to convince his wife (Maura Tierney) that he can cure his addictions and become a better husband, Taylor flies off to Las Vegas to try and retrieve his niece, Amanda (Brittany Snow), whose parents are worried about her new life as a prostitute and possible drug abuser in “sin city,” and who want Taylor to somehow convince her to go into rehab.

Firstly, it must be pointed out how rare a film like this one truely is. A remarkable breath of fresh air, Finding Amanda is a poignant, personal story about two people who are struggling with there lives and are essentially in denial about it. They lie to everyone about everything, and anything and most importantly they lie to themselves. They both sruggle on a daily basis to find themselves, or more accurately they struggle to find other people who will somehow give them validation.

The dynamics within the script to flesh these characters out is fantastic. The script is brutally honest and the performances by Broderrick and young Brittany Snow are empecable. There are no standard Hollywood cop outs and no easy endings to any of the wonderfully personal and honest plotlines. Each problem is dealt with responsibly in the script and the film ends where you may expect it to, but it doesn’t get there how you may expect.

The movie is keenly also aware of the serious subject matter its dealing with, but it never does so in an overpowering fashion. Instead, it deals with it very personally, and very honestly, and with a gentle (and cynical) sense of humor. The characters are very well written, which I can not repeat or overstate enough. They are incredibly honest, identifiable characters, both of whom struggle with the same types of things we all do everyday.

Matthew Broderrick, who is always…always amazing in everything he does, paints a powerful and moving portrait of a mid-forties man who hasn’t quite figured out how to live his life for anything, or anyone, besides himself. He is aware that he is loosing his job, how he treats people, and that he is sabotaging his marriage, but he can’t help himself. He manages to portray a snotty, selfish and unlikable television writer who we still feel sympathetic for, which is a testament to Broderrick and his skills in acting.

Young Brittany Snow (Prom Night, John Tucker Must Die) also does a remarkable job of fleshing out her emotionally frustrated, highly delusional, and self-loathing prostitute. She not only convinces herself that her job is worthwhile, a simple means to an end, but also convinces herself that her emotionally abusive boyfriend actually loves her; that if she “can love him enough,” that he will become the person she wants him to be. In perhaps the best moment of the film, Amanda breaks down and explains to her uncle why she does what she does. In recalling her first experience with prostitution, the tender and honest acting given by Snow is captivating and brutally honest. As she relays the story, the pain on her face is genuine, and we begin to see the character in a different light.

Perhaps the most amazing thing in the script is how it allows the two main characters to develop, and to learn from one another. Each of them identifies the mistakes and problems of the other, and in so doing, they slowly begin to see there own mistakes as well. Both of them are aware of the self-destructive lifestyles they lead, but its not until they see themselves in the other that they fully realize it. How these two characters teach one another, ultimately, is the most remarkable thing about the film.

An incredibly moving, honest, tender, remarkably good film with a big heart. The movie never shys away from its taboo subject matter, rather it embraces them in a simple and matter-a-fact way that is very convincing, and very realistic. The character depth in the script, and the performances of the actors are all amazing, and makes for a rare and enjoyable film experience.

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