Friends with Money (2006) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language, drug use and sexuality
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, Simon McBurney, Jason Isaacs, Scott Caan, Greg Germann, Ty Burrell
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Screenplay: Nicole Holofcener
Writer-director Holofcenter (Lovely & Amazing, Walking and Talking) continues her fine work making womancentric films with Friends with Money, a few weeks in the travails of four women at a crossroads in their lives, relationships, and careers. The themes of the film all stem from a form of class and entitlement that comes from the possession of wealth, or lack thereof, expecting all of the creature comforts that it provides, while the old adage of "money can't buy happiness" certainly rings quite true.
Jennifer Aniston (Derailed, Along Came Polly) plays Olivia, a teacher-turned-maid, and the only woman of the four struggling to make ends meet. Olivia's life is in constant limbo, unable to move on from her affair with a married man, smoking pot to pass the time, as well as obsessing about possessing the best in face creams. Joan Cusack (Ice Princess, The School of Rock) is a stay-at-home mom, but what a life, as she has plenty of hired help to look after the menial chores. Frances McDormand (North Country, Something's Gotta Give) is a clothes designer on the verge of losing it, a mid-life crisis threatening to ensue when the pressures of her life, including the suspicion that her loving husband (McBurney, The Manchurian Candidate) might be gay, has her edgy and unsatisfied. Catherine Keener (Capote, The 40 Year Old Virgin) is a screenwriter who works alongside her talented husband (Isaacs, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), but they find themselves at each others throats these days, constantly bickering about the most trivial of things incessantly.
Friends with Money is blessed with a solid ensemble of actors, all of whom play their respective parts quite well, seeming very much like the near lifelong friends that gossip about each other's little secrets and making helpful suggestions to help each other, but never too much. It helps that every character is three-dimensional, with very honest and rich dialogue that fits in well with the natural personalities of each respective performer.
Friends with Money isn't for everyone. These are very real character portrayals of men and women that some might find smug and arrogant, having everything one could ever want in their lives, and yet, their problems seem quite petty and self-centered when compared to "real-world" problems. It might be easy to knock the film as California bourgeoisie, but personal biases aside, speaking as someone from an area very similar to the one represented in the film, this does capture the lifestyles and attitudes exceedingly well. It is an observant and astute piece, never too obvious in its messages, but keenly aware of finding a sense of importance even in the small things.
©2006 Vince Leo