Amanda hasn’t lived much in her 24 years. She has never had a job, a boyfriend or even a friend. She doesn’t fit in with her family—all pharmacists—although she loves the clan’s longtime housekeeper and has a real bond with her too-serious young niece. She has a shitty apartment of her own, but it’s furnished with fancy furniture that she appears to have stolen from the family home a few blocks away. She goes to secret raves to pass the time, she stops outside the local movie theater in hopes of catching a glimpse of someone who might be a reasonable friend, and she’s begun to harbor the desire to free a horse from a local farm. She is addicted to her phone, which speaks to her in contrived Siri-ese and is programmed to call her only “Sexy Mama”. Who else would?
She’s rude, sad, silly, and very lonely, and she’s exactly the kind of heroine Gen Z not only needs, but deserves. After all, she’s the kind of person an entire movie is named after.
In Carolina Cavalli’s achingly funny “Amanda,” the highly watchable Benedetta Porcaroli plays the titular young lady (Does Amanda know “Lady Bird”? we bet she does) as he embarks on a kind of self-search, punctuated by the deadpan, the absurd, and the disaffected. Her catch: Even with all that tongue-in-cheek distance, we can’t help but root for her.
The part where Amanda never had a friend? This is just partially REAL. As the film opens, we meet young Amanda briefly as she floats merrily in her family’s elegant swimming pool (the pharmacological arts Truly pay) while her only friend Rebecca relaxes on a nearby chaise longue. But while this scene might initially seem like a foggy little slice of her childhood, Amanda can’t help but spoil it, throwing herself into the pool and (maybe?) nearly drowning in the process, at least until her devoted housekeeper saves her. More than a decade later, and Rebecca is long gone, the entire family can’t get over Amanda’s gall (maybe?) nearly dying, and the family’s maid Judy (Ana Cecilia Ponce) remains the only friend her.
Amanda knows she’s weird, but she’s not that interested in changing that (former model Porcaroli is gorgeous, but she’s also believably daunting when she taps into all of Amanda’s many affectations). Have a friend, though? It could be nice. When Judy lets slip that Rebecca was once picked on as her best friend (the girls’ mothers are best friends, with some distance between them), Amanda sets out on a quest to right what she believes is the worst wrong. grave of his life: to make Rebekah his friend, Really.
But if we think Amanda is weird (she wears the same outfit every day, including culottes and crocheted waistcoat), her idea of spicing things up is to add a fancy brooch, leading to one of the best sight gags in the film, which we are many), the locked up Rebecca (Galatéa Bellugi) is an even harder nut to crack. However, Amanda will not be discouraged, even as the rest of her life begins to sink into other interesting corners, including a possible boyfriend, a potential job and a growing closeness with the other people who populate her rarefied existence.
Cavalli’s Italian-language feature (with English subtitles) has previously screened at both Venice and TIFF, which should give an idea of his level of craftsmanship and voice (read: high!). Cavalli, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, clearly draws inspiration from a variety of inspirations—Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Yorgos Lanthimos, Noah Baumbach, and Paolo Sorrentino—when it comes to his deadpan and very polite debut. But thanks to both Cavalli’s clear affection for his lead character and Porcaroli’s winning performance, there’s also a certain sweetness about “Amanda” that appeals.
Though Amanda seeks companionship in the strangest of spaces — like logging into a series of video chat rooms clearly set up for sexual things, where she bumps into a dude who wants to talk dirty to her through the use of a spice can — her desire to make part of the world fascinates. Amanda can be socially awkward (often just awful to be around) and prone to bizarre requests, but she’s also just someone trying to get her way during a time of existence where disconnection is the standard setting for everyone.
She’s the kind of girl who will sit outside your bedroom for days on end until you’re willing to talk, the kind of girl who dreams of earning enough loyalty points at the local grocery store to trade them for a wacky fan, the kind of a girl who will release a lonely horse just because she thinks it’s what she wants. In a world where everyone feels lonely, Amanda might be our most authentic avatar, someone willing to get super weird in the hopes it will lead to something awesome. For Cavalli and “Amanda,” the results speak for themselves: The film, and its titular heroine, are truly great.
Oscilloscope will release “Amanda” in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, July 7.