Finding Amanda


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A comedy writer who has lost hot-shot status (Matthew Broderick) finds himself in writer's purgatory, scripting a third-rate TV sitcom. He got himself there through his addictions to drugs, alcohol, and gambling, which led him to miss a lot of appointments, tell a lot of lies, and screw over a lot of people. As the film begins he's staying off the drugs and booze, but is just as addicted to gambling as ever, and is lying about it to his long-suffering wife. She's about at the end of her tether with his behavior, but has resolved to give him one last chance to redeem himself by persuading a prodigal niece to enter rehab. That will be no small task since the niece is fairly content with her prosperous and independent life as a Nevada hooker, and is well aware that her uncle needs rehab a lot more than she does. Making the task even more difficult is the fact that the gambling-addicted uncle is trying to perform his mission of mercy while surrounded by Las Vegas in all of its glory.

I enjoyed seeing Matthew Broderick playing a lying, hard-cussing dissolute. It's the type of role in which we might reasonably expect to see Don Johnson or Michael Madsen, but the presence of Broderick in the role tends to invest it with a greater humanity and warmth, and that in turn lets us appreciate the character as a man rather than a movie stereotype. Unfortunately, that's about all the film has. Poor ol' Broderick needs a hit. A couple of years ago The Last Shot went almost directly to video (after a perfunctory theatrical release), and Finding Amanda is going to repeat that experience without the "almost."

It's a disappointingly conflicted movie. Is it a drama? Is it a black comedy? It certainly seems like a comedy at times, but it has two problems which will cause it to lose its connection to comedy audiences:

(1) There are moments of intense drama. Broderick gets his hands broken by a pimp. The niece is beaten by her boyfriend. In another scene, the reality of her life finally manages to erode her cheerful facade, and she weeps uncontrollably.

(2) The comedy takes a "nudge-nudge" attitude toward subjects which some, perhaps many, will consider off-limits for cheap laughs. The niece talks about being repeatedly raped by another uncle over an eight-month period, and Broderick responds cavalierly, "And I thought I was a bad uncle." I'm all in favor of letting comedy writers seek humor in dark places with no restrictions, but that particular one-liner, in the casual context, made me cringe rather than laugh.

The film doesn't work very well as a drama, either. For one thing, the characterization is too one-dimensional. The niece's creepy boyfriend is obviously not a real character, but a farcical exaggeration. For another thing, some of the plot details are not buttoned up enough to work in a realistic storyline. There is a matter of a missing $186,000, which seems to be an important enough plot element to occupy many minutes of exposition - until the film ends without explaining what happened to it! Finally, the film is too ambivalent about the moral issues it essays, so it gives off mixed messages about the niece's life as a hooker. Is she a pragmatist who is building financial security faster than any of us could dream of, or is she forever destroying her humanity? Apparently both. Or neither. Hard to say.

Overall, one would have to call Finding Amanda a dark comedy, but the proper tone for black comedy is difficult to find and maintain, and this script never seems to hone in on it. The film walks an uneasy line between social relevance and broad farce, never commits to either, sometimes lapses into bad taste, and never seems to find the balance necessary to deliver a satisfying film.


* widescreen






  No major reviews online.


6.8 IMDB summary (of 10)





Straight to video.





  • There is an anonymous topless stripper on stage at a club.
  • Backstage at the same club, Jennifer Rau shows off how she waxed her ass with Nair (she's wearing a thong)




Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: