mon 15/07/2024

Amanda review - too-intense Gen Z-er seeks a friend, boyfriend, anything | reviews, news & interviews

Amanda review - too-intense Gen Z-er seeks a friend, boyfriend, anything

Amanda review - too-intense Gen Z-er seeks a friend, boyfriend, anything

Deft Italian comedy about a rich twentysomething's existential crisis

Lead me away: Benedetta Porcaroli (right) with Galatéa Bellugi in 'Amanda'Curzon

Needy, truculent, and aggressive, an in-your-face stick of intensity and guilt-inducing melancholy, privileged young Amanda in Carolina Cavalli’s downbeat comedy is the girl no one wants to end up talking to in the kitchen at parties. 

So empathetic is Benedetta Porcaroli’s portrayal of this emotional aggressor, however, that it’s difficult not to root for her. Especially if, per William Blake, one’s bag is eternal night rather than sweet delight. 

Newly returned from studying in Paris, Amanda has been welcomed back into the matriarchal family’s bosom like a virus and is staying in a nearby hotel. One cannot entirely blame her relatives for shunning her: when Amanda finds her mother Sofia (Monica Nappo) soaking in the bath, she hoists her feet over the side of it and gives herself an impromptu pedicure. 

The brilliance of Amanda's deadpan sight gags is matched by its verbal reveals. “I can’t come with you to the rave tomorrow,” the family’s middle-aged maid Judy informs the friendless Amanda, mortified by such a betrayal.

The chilly mealtimes at the family pile suggest Amanda’s maladjustment was triggered in infancy by the withholding of affection and security. Her older sister Marina (Margherita Missoni), a mover in the family business, resents Amanda for her indolence, but there are hints she hated her for being born. Marina's precocious eight-year-old daughter – who likes her Aunt Amanda – seems untainted though needs a support teacher at school.

Dysfunction is the elephant in the room. The elliptical opening montage, a flashback, shows Judy rushing to rescue the child Amanda from drowning in the pool while Marina lazed on a recliner. A late revelation about why Amanda plunged into the water complicates this scenario.Benedetta PorcaroliThe quest of the haplessly immature Amanda – 24 going on 15 – is to make a friend, finally. Sofia's best friend Viola (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) – both women’s faces are tragic – well-meaningly suggests Amanda get together with her daughter, Rebecca (Galatéa Bellugi), who played with Amanda when they were small.

Once a student who won cups for her sporting prowess, fatherless Rebecca is now a morose agoraphobic. She angrily resists Amanda’s attempts to befriend her. They fight and insult each other, but Amanda persists. Since misery loves company, Rebecca gradually yields and ventures from her room.

Together they burn clothes on the roof of the modernist house where Rebecca lives with Viola, watch fireworks, jog, play games, toast marshmallows. Amanda introduces Rebecca to the odd-looking horse she intends to steal from a local farm. After Rebecca’s Dreadnought of a female therapist intervenes, Rebecca tells Amanda a cruel home truth about the past and there’s a rupture. The horse, which has fled, holds the key to their friendship’s survival. 

Social dysmorphia is a generational curse in Cavalli’s book. The guys Amanda tries to meet at cinemas and raves are isolates, wearers of hangdog expressions with drooping postures. The self-confessed ex-junkie and masturbator whom Amanda meets in a chat room at least knows enough about crippling loneliness to tell her to change something about herself.

The feral-eyed condom distributor Amanda assumes is her boyfriend (who admits he's humbled by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s jawline) tells her not to text him 10 times a day because he is seeing the girl she self-destructively dragged along to their first date. Cavalli is alert to the comic potential of humiliation and not afraid of pathos. When Amanda sheds a tear, you might find yourself reciprocating.

Asked in an interview why she wanted to create a character enduring a “quarter-life crisis”, Cavalli said she wanted to investigate the “feeling of displacement and not belonging… the creation of a non-place.” Rendered through starkly symmetrical and asymmetrical shots and high and low camera angles, the film’s environment fully evinces Amanda’s dislocation. Cinematographer Lorenzo Levrini’s use of soft nocturnal lighting – delicate pinks and yellows – undercuts Amanda's attack mode (typified by her armour of bright crocheted waistcoats and short culottes) in moments when she's alone, reminding us she's a sensitive soul and easily hurt.

Her stock expression combines fear and mistrust. The excellent Porcaroli sustains it until, late in the picture, Amanda’s dawning self-awareness and recognition that Marina and their mother do not despise her as much as she thought cause her to unfurrow her brow and entertain the possibility of smiling. It’s not giving too much away to say she'll be all right.

Cavalli is alert to the comic potential of humiliation and not afraid of pathos

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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