A widower whose book about coping with loss turns him into a best-selling self-help guru, falls for the hotel florist where his seminar is given, only to learn that he hasn't yet truly confronted his wife's passing.
Four women friends: three are wealthy and married plus there's Olivia, a former teacher who's now a maid. The marriages are in various states of health: Franny and Matt are happy and very rich. Christine and David write screenplays together, are remodeling their house, and argue. Jane is angry all the time and Aaron, who's an attentive husband, strikes everyone as gay. Franny sets up Olivia with a friend of hers, Mike, a personal trainer, and Olivia takes him with her to a couple of housecleaning jobs. A benefit dinner for ALS, an awkward guy named Marty whose place Olivia cleans, and a French maid's outfit figure in the story. Is there more to life than its problems? Written by
Outside the restaurant where Mike and Olivia have their date, if you look closely you can see a black fuzzy mass on the patio of the House of Pies restaurant across the street. According to Nicole Holofcener on the DVD commentary, those were all members of the paparazzi. See more »
When Jane and Aaron are in the restaurant and Jane is asking for the check from the waiter who appears to like Aaron, Aaron's arms jump around between shots. See more »
So the corrugated metal not only reflects the beauty of the common, off-the-shelf material but also emphasizes the invisible line between the old and the new construction.
Wait. There'll be a line?
Just let him finish.
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This movie seemingly wants us to care about a group of West Coasters, most of whom make a lot of money, and one of whom doesn't.
Well, I tried. But I didn't care about the woman (Joan Cusack) with apparently inherited wealth (who never seems to have worked for a living and is out of touch with reality) who plans to give $2 million to her kid's school but can't spare $1800 for her good friend, a maid. I didn't care about the belligerent clothing designer (Frances McDormand) with a feeling of entitlement who's having a mid-life crisis and feels no remorse at insulting anybody who crosses her path. I didn't care about the oblivious screenwriter (Catherine Keener) who's busy alienating her neighbors by building an extravagant house addition but acts like she doesn't know it's an eyesore and who doesn't pay any more attention to her husband than he does to her, and then she has the gall to complain about him.
So, why don't I care? Because I don't live the West L.A. lifestyle, for one and find it hard to relate to clothing designers, screenwriters, and the idle. Yes, two of them have problems we COULD relate to (mid-life crises and sleep-walking through life), but the script didn't flesh out these characters well enough for me to understand what was really going on. It was like turning on one episode of a soap opera and trying to figure out weeks of plot development -- where are we going and how did we get into this hand basket? If the point of this was to show how money doesn't make you happy, then okay already. That could have been illustrated with just one character and done more fully.
I thought I'd care about the woman (Jennifer Aniston) who leaves a supposedly good teaching job to work as a maid and who needs every nickle she earns. Sounds like it could get really interesting. However, the character's lack of ambition, spinelessness, and downright deviousness wears thin.
Interestingly enough, I cared more about one of the husbands, the possibly closeted gay man (Simon McBurney). The self-absorbed screenwriter (Jason Isaacs) would have been interesting if his character had been more fully developed. The third husband (Greg Germann) who exists on his wife's wealth is pretty much just wallpaper and a complete waste of breathable air. Of the two men who have relationships with the the maid, one is an opportunist (Scott Caan) who gets way too much screen time doing the same thing over and over, and the other is a cardboard character (Bob Stephenson) who, in the end, turns out to be another idle rich person who doesn't hesitate to chisel the less fortunate.
By the way, what was the purpose of the unflattering shots of most of the actors? Frances McDormand is a really wonderful actor, but the camera made her look much older than her character's 43 years. Why? What was the point of making Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener look wrinkled and much, much older than Jennifer Aniston? Why the bad hair on Simon McBurney? Because in real life we pretend we don't see these things? But this is a movie, kids, and things usually happen for a reason in order to make a plot point.
All the actors were terrific and I do admire their performances. Jason Isaacs was marvelous, as always. But the story went nowhere for me. I'm not a fan of "slice of life." I want character development, motivation, reasons. In other words, something to think about after I leave the theatre. After leaving this movie, all I could think about is "what was the point?" For the Woody Allen fans out there, you'll love it. For the rest of us, rent an old copy of 'Our Town' and stay home.
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