Matthew Broderick made his name playing the ultimate cool kid in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, only to find a niche playing putzes, losers, and sad sacks. In the black comedy Finding Amanda, directed by veteran television writer Peter Tolan (Rescue Me, The Larry Sanders Show), Broderick once again plays an anti-Ferris—a jittery, tightly wound television writer who swapped alcoholism and drugs for a slightly more socially sanctioned gambling addiction. Over the course of the film, Broderick is emasculated, mocked, fired, threatened, humiliated, and beaten up. It's enough to drive a man to drink, and drink Broderick does, backsliding blearily into his bad old habits.


Amanda's gimmicky plot sends Broderick's depressed, anxious hack upriver to the bubbling cesspool of sin that is Las Vegas to convince niece Brittany Snow to check into rehab after descending into prostitution and club drugs. Upon touching down in a city rife with temptation, Broderick is surprised to find Snow seemingly content with her sordid lot in life, so long as she gets to keep her tacky little dream house and asshole boyfriend Peter Facinelli. Both wedded to delusions, Broderick and Snow share a penchant for self-destructiveness that only grows more pronounced as Broderick falls off the wagon hard and gives in to his compulsion to gamble.

Broderick makes for a prickly, flawed anti-hero, but he's a veritable saint compared to the pimps, whores, drug dealers, phonies, and gun nuts with which the film surrounds him. Facinelli, in particular, couldn't be any more of a cretinous, deplorable, sub-Kevin Federline caveman if he wielded a club and wore a loincloth advertising Axe body spray. Blackly superficial, Amanda is pitched somewhere between a dark night of the soul and the pilot for one of those self-consciously edgy pay-cable shows that glory in the freedom of being able to show boobs, drugs, profanity, and wanton bad behavior. Broderick has an affecting speech late in the film once he rouses himself from his downward spiral and experiences a moment of clarity, but Finding Amanda mostly seems content to skate briskly along the surface, seldom mining Broderick and Snow's predicaments for anything more than snarky gags and bitter one-liners. It's amusing but facile, reasonably clever but hopelessly glib. As the old saying goes, you can take the writer out of television but you can't take the television out of a writer.