The Movie Waffler New Release Review - AMANDA | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - AMANDA

Amanda review
A directionless young woman becomes determined to make a friend.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Carolina Cavalli

Starring: Benedetta Porcaroli, Galatéa Bellugi, Michele Bravi, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Monica Nappo, Margherita Maccapani Missoni

Amanda poster

European cinema has given us some fascinating female fuckups over the past year or so. Think the trainwreck at best, sociopathic at worst protagonists of The Worst Person in the World, Sick of Myself and Return to Seoul. None of them are what you might consider aspirational, but they're all relatable to some degree in their struggles to negotiate their twenties, perhaps the most uncertain time in our lives, and they've made for a refreshing contrast to the one-dimensional female "role models" of recent American cinema. The latest addition to this growing group is the title character of Italian writer/director Carolina Cavalli's feature debut Amanda.

Amanda review

Played in rousing fashion by Benedetta Porcaroli (new to this writer but apparently something of an online sensation for her role in the Netflix series Baby), Amanda is a 25-year-old who returns to her wealthy family in Italy after spending five years studying in Paris. Her family members aren't exactly happy to see her return. She has an estranged relationship with her older sister Marina (Margherita Maccapani Missoni), stemming from a childhood incident in which Marina sat by as Amanda almost drowned in the family pool. Her mother (Monica Nappo) tries her best to reintegrate Amanda into the local community, but Amanda prefers to hang out with her family's housekeeper, who is none too happy with such an arrangement.

Desperate to make friends, Amanda hangs out at a local rave and sets her sights on a strange young man (Michele Bravi) whom she accuses of dealing drugs before deciding he's her boyfriend. She becomes obsessed with freeing a horse she believes is being mistreated at a local farm. She buys copious amounts of energy drinks from a local supermarket to rack up enough points to acquire an electric fan which she plans to sell to a local electrical store rather than earn money working in her family's pharmacy.

Amanda review

Amanda's listless days become filled with new purpose when she reconnects with an old friend, Rebecca (Galatéa Bellugi), who has spent the past few years refusing to leave her bedroom. Rebecca becomes the latest obsession for Amanda, who grows in her determination to make this equally offbeat young woman her new friend.

With its quirky characters and a narrative made up largely of vignettes, Amanda will likely be compared to the many American indies that would take up the schedule of Sundance around the turn of the century, and the plot device of an oddball protagonist returning to their hometown is one that persists in that particular sphere today. But Amanda's roots go further back to the likes of The Graduate and Harold & Maude (you could easily imagine Cat Stevens songs playing over footage of Amanda striding around town), and it has an artistic precision lacking in most of its American indie cousins. Arguably not since Wes Anderson's Rushmore has a movie channeled this sort of vibe in such a visually refreshing manner. Cinematographer Lorenzo Levrini captures an environment that is at once scenic and stifling; Amanda lives in the sort of town you'd love to visit but would probably drive you mad if you had to live there. There's something very contemporary about the idea of an over-educated young woman stuck living with her family, and no doubt many younger viewers will sympathise with Amanda's plight, even if her problems are decidedly of a first world nature.

Amanda review

It's credit to Cavalli's writing and Porcaroli's performance that the crazier Amanda behaves, the more we warm to her. She's narcissistic from the point of view of believing she's more intelligent than everyone around her, but the thing is, she's probably right. Unfortunately for Amanda, we live in an age where intellect is no guarantee of success, and if like Amanda, you refuse to move through life in robotic fashion, you're not going to get too far. Porcaroli plays the character with the entitlement and bewilderment of a toddler that can't understand why they can't have ice cream for every meal. When she leaves the house with a bowl of rice, Amanda is told she can't just leave the house with a bowl of rice. But why can't you have ice cream for every meal or eat a bowl of rice as you wander the streets? Who makes up such arbitrary rules? Amanda might be her own worst enemy, but at least she's putting up a fight. Practically everyone she encounters ends up calling her a pain in the ass, but it's largely because she's prodding their contentment. To be honest, we could probably all use an Amanda from time to time to wake us from our societal stupor. Is it really so bad to go through life asking "Why not?"

 is in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from June 2nd.

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