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Finding Amanda's Honest Heartbreak

Leaving Las Vegas done right

Drop a gambler into Las Vegas and of course he'll lose his shirt, but the how and why of it remain under-explored even after—dare I say because of?—Leaving Las Vegas. In its modest but incisive way, Peter Tolan's jaunty comedy highlights everything that was self-indulgent, grandiose, and false about that overrated movie. As addicts go, second-tier television writer Taylor Peters (Matthew Broderick, roly-poly and wry) is low-key and small potatoes in everything but the dough he fritters away while trying to win back his long-suffering wife (Maura Tierney). This he attempts by traveling to Sin City to drag his niece (a terrific Brittany Snow), a seemingly happy and house-proud hooker, to rehab. Written and directed with brio and rueful firsthand knowledge of his subject by Tolan, executive producer of the acclaimed television series Rescue Me, the movie never falls into the jargon of denial or sets us morally above its quietly hapless protagonist. Instead, it puts us inside the deluded but impregnable inner logic that Taylor sustains from one self-inflicted calamity to the next. By keeping the tone light, the players human (Steve Coogan has a nice turn as a greasy casino host), and never, ever romanticizing the addict, Finding Amanda comes by its heartbreak honestly.

 
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