My Amanda Is the Ultimate Friend Zone Movie
My Amanda isn’t for everybody. The Alessandra de Rossi and Piolo Pascual starrer, which premiered globally on Netflix on July 15, is a film that can be difficult to digest, a chore to sit through, and a challenge to enjoy. The entire film revolves around the deeply platonic friendship of TJ (Pascual) and Amanda (de Rossi) as they go through life’s ups and downs as told through a series of vignettes.
It was a film that few outfits wanted to touch because, as de Rossi put it, “they found it unbelievable.” But Netflix threw its considerable support behind the film and allowed de Rossi, who makes her debut as writer and director, to tell the story as she wanted it. Given such freedom, My Amanda is a bewildering reflection of the massively talented actress, whose strictly asexual friendships with men form the basis of the story.
Pascual, who produced the sleeper hit Kita-Kita starring de Rossi, practically leaped at the chance to co-produce the film because of his belief in de Rossi’s talents. Pascual portrays TJ aka Fluffy, an essential amalgam of the most desirable traits in a partner: ridiculously good looks, stupendous yet mysterious wealth (he drives around in expensive cars and wears the most stylish clothes all the while never appearing to work), and last and most important, always physically and emotionally available.
TJ and Amanda aka Fream have what appears to be the perfect relationship with the glaring absence of sexual attraction. In fact, they have a better relationship than most marriages. My Amanda is the ultimate friend zone movie and you don’t exactly know who’s responsible for it. TJ is completely straight—he is implied to be a serial dater who can’t seem to find the perfect girl—but has zero attraction to Amanda.
In a way, it’s kind of insulting.
Amanda makes half-joking advances to TJ, at one point even imploring him to use her body sexually, but TJ swats it away. Being something of an implied skirt-chaser, TJ rejecting Amanda feels like a power imbalance where Amanda is on the losing end. Although narrated by TJ, the film is told from Amanda’s point of view as all of her life’s struggles and occasional triumphs are the focus.
TJ and Amanda have what is essentially a perfect marriage sans the sex. De Rossi and Pascual felt it was important to tell a story where a platonic relationship can exist between presumably straight men and women. In interviews, Pascual kept talking about a line they were careful not to cross, and where de Rossi as director would exhort him, “This is how far you can go. No, that's too much. No, you cannot seduce me. No, you're not supposed to be falling in love with me.”
My Amanda demands either tremendous suspension of disbelief or familiarity with the asexual experience. De Rossi, the quintessential “one of the guys,” explains that the dynamics between TJ and Amanda are based on her real-life friendships with her “boys.” “I call them boys, not men, and they treat me like a guy,” she said.
There may be much truth to this as de Rossi has managed to keep her relationship status a secret from an often unforgiving press. She has frequently denied dating director Rico Gutierrez, who has often shared beautiful photographs of de Rossi in exotic locales, and she has tweeted support for single women by saying she’s just as happy with having Jollibee as others are with getting married. Gutierrez may well be one of de Rossi’s TJs to her Amanda. In a nutshell, Alessandra de Rossi is Amanda.
It’s only by understanding this that the whole film makes sense.
While the trajectory of Amanda’s life is obviously different from de Rossi’s—Amanda is a struggling stylist while de Rossi is one of the most talented and accomplished actors of her generation—de Rossi doesn’t act in My Amanda as much as she just drops her guard and becomes herself. This is why the film works and why it doesn’t.
Pascual and de Rossi’s platonic chemistry leaps off the screen and it can be truly frustrating to never see them take their relationship to the next level but also understandable because there’s a calculated lack of sexual tension. It’s tragic because both TJ and Amanda go through relationships that simply don’t work and in one case was even downright harmful.
The pair’s relationship is so close, including being physically affectionate, that it’s difficult to imagine their partners not experiencing some insecurity and even jealousy. But the bottom line is that neither TJ nor Amanda are sexually attracted to the other and that’s that. The whole point of the film is to illustrate that men and women can truly just be friends, although your mileage may vary.
There’s a scene where Amanda passes out while drunk and TJ takes her to bed and he watches over her as she sleeps. It’s meant to illustrate that not all men are jerks, but the message is dulled by a previous scene where Amanda asks TJ to look into her eyes and asks him if he feels anything for her and he flat-out rejects her. It’s meant to be funny, but instead, it’s painful because it’s shot romantically but TJ completely friend zones her. They laugh afterward but it isn’t the first or last time that Amanda expresses some form of attraction to TJ.
Despite or maybe even because of its unconventional story, My Amanda is a solid directorial debut for de Rossi. The film lives and dies by the chemistry and strong acting of its two leads and My Amanda is a showcase for both. The script clunkers in some parts, particularly where TJ’s narration is worded deliberately to make audiences think one thing and it doesn’t quite work.
My Amanda is a testament to Netflix’s willingness to buck convention. A straightforward narrative of a solid, platonic friendship that goes through its paces, the film isn’t an easy watch but definitely an educational one. De Rossi would like to remind everyone that deep, lifelong platonic relationships between men and women do, in fact, exist and that everyone deserves their own Fluffy or Fream.
My Amanda is now streaming on Netflix.