A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that teens probably won't be clamoring to see this mature dramedy. Which is just as well, since it attempts to put a light sheen on serious topics like prostitution but ultimately comes across as somewhat dismissive. There's a fair amount of swearing -- within the first 15 minutes alone, a panoply of cuss words (including "f--k") lets fly -- and a whole host of vices, from gambling to drinking and drug use. There's also some partial nudity (breasts) and implied sex. And even though he's lying through his teeth almost every time he opens his mouth, the lead character doesn't seem to feel much remorse about it.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Hollywood scribe Taylor (Matthew Broderick) works for a TV show he can't stand and has a gambling problem he can't shake. His wife Lorraine's (Maura Tierney) patience is wearing thin, so he comes up with a stunt to curry favor: He'll head to Vegas to look for their niece, perky, sunny Amanda (Brittany Snow) -- who's been dabbling with prostitution while using drugs -- and talk her into giving rehab a try. But as it turns out, finding Amanda isn't the tough part, as Taylor's trip pushes him deeper into his own vices.
Is it any good?
FINDING AMANDA, which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, tries to straddle two worlds -- comedy and tragedy -- but it doesn't succeed at either. Dismissive when it shouldn't be and treacly when sweetness isn't called for, it winds up tonally confusing at best. One minute, Amanda is blasé about her chosen profession -- she offhandedly propositions potential "clients" while chit-chatting with her uncle and talks about sexual acts she's performed as if talking about a manicure (a conceit already mined far more successfully in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite) -- and the next she's sobbing on the floor with shame.
Perhaps that's meant to show the ambivalence that Amanda truly feels about her situation -- which would be understandable -- but it just doesn't fly. And though it's somewhat amusing to watch Taylor lie, even to himself, about his burgeoning addictions, the humor quickly dissipates when Lorraine (played with nuance by Tierney) is increasingly pained by his mounting untruths. It's always a pleasure to watch Broderick negotiate angsty figures, but he deserves more cohesive material. Director Peter Tolan's made an admirable effort to tell a complicated story, but he just didn't find the perfect mix, never mind Amanda.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the media usually portrays prostitution. Do you think these depictions are realistic? Why would filmmakers want to glamorize (or even just soften) "the world's oldest profession"? Also, is it OK to mine topics like addiction and lying for laughs? Why or why not? And why do you think Taylor volunteered to go to Vegas when he's a gambling addict (and an alcoholic to boot)? Was it all a lie, or did he have every intention of helping out?
- In theaters: June 26, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: September 16, 2008
- Cast: Brittany Snow, Matthew Broderick, Maura Tierney
- Director: Peter Tolan
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content including graphic dialogue, pervasive language, drug content and brief nudity.
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