Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
A quietly perfect scene in "Finding Amanda" involves Taylor, the hero, arriving at a Las Vegas casino. Without overstating the case, the film makes it clear that Taylor is well-known here: The doorman, the bellboy, even the room maid greet him by name. That may be one of the danger signals of a gambling addiction. Another one may be taking a check from out of the middle of your wife's checkbook.
Taylor (Matthew Broderick) is indeed a gambling addict. He claims to be recovering. Hasn't placed a bet since ... earlier today. He is also, over a longer span of time, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. He works as a well-paid writer for a TV sitcom that everybody seems to agree is terrible and lives in a comfortable home with his comely wife, Lorraine (Maura Tierney), who is fed up to here with his gambling and has called an attorney.
That sets the stage for the film's central drama. His 20-year-old niece, Amanda (Brittany Snow), has left home, gone to Vegas and become a "dancer," which, we learn, is a euphemism for "stripper," which is a euphemism for "hooker." The girl's mother is begging him to intervene. Taylor is happy to oblige, since it means a trip to Vegas, where even the room maid, etc.
And so commences a peculiar film, which is really two films fighting to occupy the same space. The first film, the one of the "quietly perfect scene," is about Taylor, his addictions, his emotions and Jerry (Steve Coogan), a host at the casino. The second film, which has no perfect scenes, is about his niece, her life and her boyfriend (Peter Facinelli). If there were more of the first story line and less of the second, this would be a better film. If there were none of the second story line, it might really amount to something. But there we are.