“Amanda,” a smart, stylish debut by the Italian writer-director Carolina Cavalli, plays like “Lady Bird” by way of Wes Anderson’s deadpan existentialism. Its heroine, the prickly Amanda (Benedetta Porcaroli), a college grad and the daughter of wealthy pharmacy owners, would rather twiddle her thumbs than work. Terrified of socializing with people her own age, she claims to prefer hanging out in the family chateau with her prepubescent niece and the maid. She would secretly kill for meaningful companionship — but first, she has to learn not to bite.
Equipped with an arsenal of verbal snapbacks, Amanda stomps around her northern Italian hometown, a smattering of Brutalist buildings and empty parking lots, with a hustler’s steely resolve — only her “hustle” consists of racking up enough department store loyalty points to win a prize, a shoddy standing fan that she could otherwise easily purchase.
When Amanda’s mother (Monica Nappo) suggests she seek out Rebecca (Galatéa Bellugi), the misanthropic daughter of another moneyed family — and technically an old friend (as in, the girls went on play dates when they were toddlers) — Amanda throws herself into the relationship like a running back in the last quarter. An agoraphobic who refuses to leave her room, Rebecca wears armor of her own, though when she and Amanda finally warm up to each other, the blending of their distinct cocktails of neuroses produces something like a chemical explosion.
The snappy script pokes fun at the friends’ delusions, connecting them to a listlessness born of extreme privilege. Beyond style for its own sake, the color-blocked quirkiness of the set-pieces feels justified, and somehow more effectively funny, within the context of such gratuitous wealth and the infinite yet empty sense of time it creates for those who wield it. That’s why Cavalli’s character study feels so rich. Amanda is absurd and abrasive, but also sympathetic thanks to Porcaroli’s performance. She’s a flaming narcissist with a gooey core of vulnerability, a being forged by the fear of making herself known.
Not Rated. In Italian with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.