This dark comedy of addiction, delusion and humor as a weapon marks the feature directing debut of veteran writer Peter Tolan, who co-created TV's edgy Rescue Me.
Self-loathing TV writer Taylor Mendon (Matthew Broderick) has done a bang-up job of sabotaging his brilliant career – even in substance abuse-tolerant Hollywood, you can only piss in people's hot tubs and puke at the Emmys for so long before you're shown the door. Two years after being fired in disgrace from a hit show, Taylor has renounced booze and dope and found a berth on the universally reviled sitcom "Those McAllisters," starring Ed Begley, Jr. He's trying to rebuild his marriage to Lorraine (Maura Tierney), who supported him through the bad times, but she's near the end of her rope and Taylor knows she'd lose it if she knew he was secretly clinging to his last addiction – gambling – like a life preserver in a stormy sea. And so she does when, on the way home from a wrenching visit with her sister, who's just discovered that her 20-year-old daughter Amanda (Brittany Snow) is turning tricks in Las Vegas and probably using drugs as well, Lorraine discovers a stack of betting slips in Taylor's glove compartment. Taylor has already agreed to finance a stint in rehab for his wayward niece, but it will take more than checkbook gestures to convince Lorraine that he's worth the emotional effort. So Taylor heads for Vegas to rescue Amanda and prove he can walk through the gambling capitol of the world without succumbing. Complication number one is that he can't. Complication number two is that Amanda isn't interested in being saved. And complication number three, well, it's just the first of many more.
Tolan's nervy tale of eyes-wide-open self-destruction navigates smoothly between bleak farce and screwball tragedy. More remarkably, he never succumbs to the temptation to make Taylor or Amanda cute; Taylor's egocentric spinelessness becomes more apparent with each temptation he fails to resist, while Amanda's sunny façade gradually erodes to reveal deep-rooted damage beneath the girl-power rap. And he writes terrific roles for the supporting cast, from Steve Coogan's oily casino floor boss to the beefy bartender in Aztec drag (Sam Vance), who misinterprets Taylor's clumsy inquiries about "companionship" and refuses to be disabused of the notion that Taylor is propositioning him. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh