Oh boy. Let me preface this review by saying that I truly go into all films (festival or otherwise) hoping to love what I see on the big screen. During the movie, I will always try my damnedest to find something worthwhile; something positive to say afterwards. But then you get to a film like Finding Amanda and there's really nowhere to go. Aside from a few cute one-liners, this film was a complete disaster -- to the point where I would strongly advise the creators not to screen this anywhere else until more work was done to it. I hate to be that guy, and I seriously have nothing against the filmmakers, but watching this flick felt like slowing down to check out an accident on the freeway. At first, it doesn't look so bad ... but then you get up close and everything is completely demolished.
Then again, we should've seen this coming. Right off the bat you have what feels like a comedy about a broken television writer/producer (Matthew Broderick) who, in order to prove to his wife that he's not a degenerate gambler/alcoholic, takes a trip to Las Vegas to convince their drug-addicted niece (Brittany Snow), who hooks for a living, to enter rehab. Gee, sounds like a laugh fest! But Broderick was great in smaller, quirkier films like Election; perhaps Finding Amanda would, well, find the right darkly comedic tone and take off from there? Yeah ... not so much. In fact, they should've renamed this one Finding the Right Tone.
That's because Finding Amanda doesn't know what it wants to be. Three quarters of the film give us straight-up comedy, with Snow playing what I like to call a "Disney hooker" -- which means she dresses in clothes from The Gap, smiles a lot and talks about being raped as if she were going to the mall for the afternoon. Then, as if a switch had been flipped, Snow becomes the beaten and battered hooker -- the girl who curls up in a corner, rocking back and forth, hysterically crying. Really? Meanwhile, Broderick sleepwalks through the entire movie -- not once does his delivery change, even when his character's lost $60,000, downed several drinks AND popped a pill of ecstasy.
Beyond that, neither of these two main characters are likable. Snow's Amanda is way too bright and bubbly to convince us she's a hooker from Vegas, not to mention the fact that she's selfish, foolish and kinda boring-ish. Broderick's Taylor (does he look like a Taylor?) was even worse. The guy lied to his wife consistently throughout the entire film, but then tried to convince us that she meant the world to him and he'd do anything to save their marriage. Two minutes later he's on the phone lying again. He gambles, he drinks and he does absolutely nothing to help the situation (except for the forced ending that, after witnessing all the events prior, doesn't even ring true). And these are our two main characters!
Usually, in this case, I'd blame the director, not the writer -- because there's a half-decent nugget of an idea in this story about two people who can't help themselves but help each other. However, the writer and the director are the same person: Peter Tolan. Really, the main problem is tone. Finding Amanda goes from stupid silly to REAL serious in a matter of seconds. The director should have picked up on these wacky tonal shifts and he should have found a way to get more out of his talent, or at least guide them in the right direction. It's too bad, because this was a film I was really looking forward to -- and, in the right hands, Finding Amanda might have been a pretty slick dark comedy about redemption in the city of sin. However, unfortunately, this is one film I wouldn't take a gamble on.