Los Angeles television writer-producer Taylor Peters (Matthew Broderick) has kicked most of the bad habits (drink, drugs) that conspired to throw his career off track, but still finds himself addicted to gambling. When his wife (Maura Tierney) tells him that his 20-year-old niece Amanda (Brittany Snow) is working as a prostitute in Las Vegas, Taylor all too eagerly volunteers to go collect her and deliver her to a cushy, expensive rehab facility back in Pasadena. Naturally, old habits die hard.
The co-creator and executive producer of FX’s Rescue Me, writer-director Peter Tolan has an extensive list of writing credits that represent badly botched concepts (America’s Sweethearts), cloying hunks of high-concept goo (Just Like Heaven), or both. Finding Amanda, though, doesn’t even have a good reason to exist. I neither know nor care if this has any kernel of rooted truth in Tolan’s life. The fact is that apart from the contrived main scenario there’s no compelling reason for any of these characters to be who they are (since we never see Taylor win or lose, we feel no real connection to his past), and Tolan doesn’t even bother trying to connect the allegorical occupational dots between writer and whore, which might give this pointless, cardboard-thin premise an ounce or two of subtext.
The performances sink to the level of the material; Broderick completely phones it in as Taylor and Snow, auditioning in perky, signpost-emoting fashion in an effort to break out and be the Next Big Thing, neither elicits sympathy or pervy titillation. Peter Facinelli, as Amanda’s jerky boyfriend, and Steve Coogan, as a casino manager who feigns chuminess with Taylor, fare no better.
And about that writing — no matter his own private agenda (gambling, free from his wife’s questioning gaze and checkbook-free allowance for at least 36 hours or so), would Taylor really locate Amanda while she was propositioning drunken skeezers in a hotel lobby, and then unblinkingly acquiesce to her chirpy wish to meet back up later that night, after she “finished working?” I mean, really? Good God, man. By the time Amanda’s pimp starts pitching Taylor his idea for a script, you might think Tolan is trying, in his own inside-baseball kind of way, to deliver a Sin City super-sized version of the careening, serial phantasmagoria of After Hours, albeit awfully; when the inevitable, teary, wholly unearned soul-searching late third-act moment finally arrives, you realize, more to the point, he’s just been dicking around the entire movie. (Magnolia Pictures, R, 90 minutes)