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|Index||168 reviews in total|
I would watch it weekly without fail. The characters are 3D, their lives interesting, the dialog graceful and funny...so why was I so disappointed by and frustrated with this movie? Because there just needed to be more. The short running time compacts all the problems and situations down to bare essentials, and there is too much going on for this film to skim across the surface the way it does. I guess the point is to show us a snapshot of these people at a very specific point in their lives, and then move on. The more-than-able cast certainly helps--particularly Frances McDormand, who can do more with just her eyes and mouth than most actors can with a page of script (just watch the way she looks at everything around her--especially other people). And while I am a huge fan of 70s-style non-endings, I admit that this movie's abrupt stop (after a very convenient and pat wrap-up) left me with an "Eh" kind of feeling. While it is certainly watchable and interesting AS FAR AS IT GOES, this movie is no "Walking and Talking." Have you seen that movie? "W and T" is absolutely brilliant, another small portrait of long-time female friends, but because it narrows its scope to two characters in a particular situation (one's wedding), it achieves all the depth and poignancy and hilarity that "Friends with Money" lacks. If "F w/ M" were a TV series, if it fully explored the characters' lives and situations in some depth and detail, I'd be its #1 fan. Maybe the DVD will include deleted scenes (say about 40 or 50) and the movie will finally feel complete.
"Friends with Money" is Americana the sit-com way: it is about older,
(much) more monied, West Coast clones of TV's loathsome "Friends."
Although it appears a slow-mo imitation of Woody Allen at his talkiest,
the film does well. The reason: a quartet of actresses having a ball.
Nicole Holofcener's script and direction are merely OK: a medium-funny, not very insightful soap about three couples and a single woman (Jennifer Anniston), who is younger than her six friends, jobless, aimless, sloppy and rather annoying. Of the three husbands, only Simon McBurney is outstanding, but he really is, the English actor turning in a wonderful performance as a super-nice metrosexual.
Anniston does her best, which here works better than in any of her other roles. But "Friends with Money" is worth seeing because of - in order - Frances McDormand's huge star turn, with her unsuppressed rage turning into petty, ordinary rudeness; Catherine Keener, sleepwalking through affluence; and Joan Cusack, as a nice mega-rich woman without guilt or troubling thoughts.
The pace is glacial and steady; after a while, the film settles into a pleasant, moderately quirky flow, until a sudden and inconclusive end. Through it all, performances are to be enjoyed, and in McDormand's case, treasured. Never again will you be able go without washing your hair and not think of Frances McDormand.
Not only is this not a groundbreaking film, it's not a particularly
pleasant, or enjoyable one either. It centers around a group of early
40s-somethings who hate their lives, their spouses and their place in
the world. The casting of Aniston is strange, as she is easily 10 years
younger then her circle of friends.
While you'd think that the film is trying to state "happiness has nothing to do with how much money you have", the opposite appears to be true as the more elevated couples do have less problems. And, if fact, all of Aniston's problems are seemingly solved when she manages to snag a wealthy (albeit slacker) guy herself. While the three married couples do have children, they don't add anything to the story, as they seem more like convenient accessories than meaningful relations. While that may be a creative choice, the fact that it runs across all three couples identically makes me inclined to believe it's just sloppy, two-dimensional screen writing. None of the story lines are brought full circle and the entire exercise feels like a long death march towards irrelevance. Several interesting notions are addressed, but none closely examined or fully developed. While there are poignant moments and some nice creative decisions (i.e. allowing the actors to look their age), this genre has been mined before to better results (i.e. "Grand Canyon").
This is a "so what?" movie. Some of the characters have unhappy
marriages, some are selfish, some are insensitive, some are lazy.
Nothing new, nothing significant; instead, the characters are
thoroughly mundane and typical. These people are their own problems.
They don't struggle against outside forces. They don't struggle much at
It is great to see that the cast isn't made up of teenage girls (or 30 year-olds playing teenage girls). The actors and the characters here are grown-ups, and they are not glossed-up in the manner of a typical Hollywood film. But there just isn't enough relevance or comedy or drama or anything to support a feature film. So why did this movie get made? Don't know. Why see it? No reason there either.
It's true that this movie is utterly bereft of car crashes and blood,
but both my husband and I enjoyed it very much. I found it very
refreshing to spend time in the company of people my age whose lives
are not non-stop excitement, who are not trying to escape from
terrorists/having sex with an unending stream of nubile blondes/both.
Yes, this movie is dialogue-driven, and yes, many of the comments and even conversations will seem familiar. I enjoyed watching and hearing people I could genuinely relate to, discussing problems which, if not all directly paralleling my own concerns, I could at least understand. The movie deals with the role that money has in personal happiness and how it changes the dynamics of friendships, and effectively shows that while money is neither a universal panacea, neither is it the root of all evil. One of the interesting questions the movie raises is also what you focus on and contemplate when money isn't an issue for you.
I thought the movie accurately portrays many of the misgivings that women in their 40s experience, even when they're financially comfortable--dealing with Olivia's feelings of *invisibility*, Jane's quiet despair at the loss of the hopeful anticipation with which she used to view her upcoming life, Christine's external expression of her mental off-balancedness and gracelessness.
There are plenty of movies out there directed at 18-year-old skateboarding ninja-fiends--is it so wrong to make one for me?? I found the performances (especially Jason Isaacs' overbearing and emotionally heedless American husband) compelling and believable, and I enjoyed this movie a lot.
"Friends With Money" seems like an incomplete film. It's as if
writer-director Nicole Holofcener either got tired of her characters
and simply ran out of ideas. I don't mind films where nothing much
happens or there is no narrative conclusion. But there seems something
awfully unfinished and undeveloped about this movie.
On the other hand, what makes it watchable are the performances.
Jennifer Aniston does her best work since "The Good Girl" (2002). She still has the best chance of the "Friends" cast to have a sterling film career, if she continues doing work like this - at least playing characters like Olivia. She should stay away from playing femmes fatale - her performance in last year's dismal "Derailed" was ample proof she's not ready to venture into Stanwyck or Fiorentino territory, yet.
But Aniston has a fine sense of finding that line between comedy and drama without pushing either one too far. Her Olivia is a believable person who just has incredibly lousy taste in men - thus far. Watching the hurt and disappointment on Aniston's face when Mike's (Scott Caan) true character comes out shows this woman's got talent.
Mike actually might be this film's most intriguing and interesting character. Caan's very good in the role and just when you think you like him, he does something despicable.
Holofcener's film centers around a group of friends, most of whom are affluent, if not stinking rich. The exception is Olivia. And throughout the film, Holofcener unveils their pains, insecurities and flaws.
Joan Cusack plays the guilt-ridden wealthy woman well and Catherine Keener, again, proves why she remains so incredibly under-rated. Here's an actress who can take small moments in a film and turn them into unforgettable ones. Keener's so completely compelling and honest in her performance. Christine's discussions with her husband, David (Jason Isaacs), never ring false thanks to two strong performances.
The weak link in the film really is Frances McDormand's Jane. This isn't the wonderful McDormand's fault. Trouble is, Holofcener paints McDormand's Jane as such a one-dimensional person - a woman who turns her suppressed rage into a rather annoying persona. Holofcener never bothers to penetrate the surface of Jane's problems. We just know she's angry and that's all we see of her. It's a shame because a woman of McDormand's infinite acting talents deserved a much richer character.
"Friends With Money" seems rather superficial at times because, unlike Holofcener's previous two films, this one simply skirts the surface of the characters. With the exception of Olivia and, to a lesser extent, Christine, we never see other sides to these people.
There's more to their stories. Much more. But Holofcener shows no interest in going there.
This is a movie that has contradictions all over the place. Are they
happy or not? Is he gay or not? Am I to feel any sympathies for these
people or not? Determined or annoying? There is really much to admire
about this study of the well-to-do citizens of the Westside of Los
Angeles. Unlike "Crash", this one gives us the positive and negative
sides of what these people can be. Those of us who are familiar with
the area can recognize how important image is to those with money and
how their perceptions are so different from the rest of the world. We
try to emulate them, but if we don't have the resources, it isn't
possible. For instance, this is a point that is repeatedly made by the
main characters in the film. We can afford it, and you (most of the
audience) can't. It's hard to relate to that type of character.
What we can appreciate is some very fine performances; from Cusack's very restrained socialite, a woman who seems to be unable to cope with the wealth she owns. She appears to be normal, but she's pretty much limited by her standing. Her husband, a lesser character, appears to be more true to his social class, and he makes no apologies for his social position. Then, we have McDormand's neurotic designer, who is now losing control and is sinking into some very strange psychological episodes. There is not much of an explanation, and it's very frustrating to be amused or concerned by her problems. Still, McDormand does a very capable and entertaining job with her character. The standout is Anniston, who normally doesn't register much in her "star" turns, but here, as she did in "The Good Girl", she shines because she manages to keep her character real and believable. Her dissatisfaction with her actual situation is a cross to bear, and her bad luck in her relationships is something we can find at least believable. She knows these characters and has learned to survive in their immediacy, but she truly understands she will always be an outsider.
One of the most frustrating aspects in this film is how short and underdeveloped it seems by the time it is over. Maybe, as I mentioned before, it remains true to its ambivalent nature. Here is what might have started as an in-depth analysis of what it is to be rich, but in the end feels like a sloppy job. It moved well, shined at moments, and suddenly, it stalled. Is there a sequel in the works? I would certainly like to know where this is all going to end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Olivia (Jennifer Anniston) is part of a group of four women friends
who're all well off, except for her. Having fled from a school teaching
job, she now cleans people's houses. She smokes some pot, pines for a
married man she had a fling with, dates a personal trainer who's a
dick; in the end, she winds up with a customer who's a slob but turns
out to be nice, and quite rich. Olivia's three friends are Jane,
Christine, and Franny. Jane (Frances McDormand) is a successful but
very feisty and angry clothing designer, with a gay-seeming husband
named Aaron (Simon McBurney) who attracts gay, and gay-seeming men.
Jane's Aaron finds another Aaron (Ty Burrell), equally gay-seeming, and
they have a sort of date, but this is to tease us or educate us about
men: both Aarons are happily married, and their friendship leads to
dinners for four, and that's that. Christine (Caroline Keener) writes
scripts, and has nasty verbal fights, with her husband David (Jason
Isaacs): her marriage is crumbling while the couple build a second
floor on their house that will ruin the view for their neighbors. When
Christine realizes this, and that her husband knew it, she dumps him.
Franny (Joan Cusack) is very rich, just raises her kids with full time
help, and is perfectly happy with her husband Matt (Greg Germann), her
two children, and the world.
There are several themes here: forty-something women's crises (Jane, Christine); a single woman's aimlessness and passivity (Olivia); men who either seem gay, or are creeps, like Franny's personal trainer Mike (Scott Caan), whom she sets up with Olivia, and who is rude and exploitive toward Olivia; Christine's husband, who can't be nice to Christine -- though she can't be nice to him, either. And money. It's always there as an issue.
A pivot point is the pet fiction in American social comedy that friends stay together even when their fortunes come to vary widely. To distinguish her people from each other, Holofcener resorts to something like the eighteenth-century comedy of humors, where a character is dominated by a single trait or quirk: Olivia is obsessed with skin lotions and will even steal to get them; Jane picks fights with strangers and won't wash her hair; Christine is always hurting herself by accident. Franny's rich husband is almost invisible, except to insist on spending money, and he is the best man. He isn't possibly gay either.
Besides the married-men-who-seem-gay theme, there's a sequence when Olivia allows the boorish personal trainer to accompany her on her housecleaning jobs, where he lounges around, and then demands from her, and gets, a cut of her pay. Finally he gives her a kinky maid's uniform and orders her around in it on a job, a prelude to sex. Only at the end of this episode when she follows him and sees he's dating somebody else in the evenings, does Olivia decide to stop seeing this creep.
What is one to make of such a movie? It's an opportunity for some amusing character acting, and McDormand and Cusack and McBurney stand out. Anniston is well cast as the slightly depressed, rudderless but still independent female, who somehow carries herself well enough to be accepted by her well-off comrades -- though Franny and her husband agree that if she met Olivia now, she might not make the grade.
The rambling incidents and scattered emotions are united at the end by a conventional comedy device, a final public event that brings the main characters together, in this case a charity dinner for people with Lou Gehrig's disease. Franny and her husband have bought a table and Jane provides the women with dresses from her collection. Jane washes her hair for the occasion. Christine comes without her husband because they're breaking up. Having gotten rid of the unpleasant personal trainer, Olivia comes with the slob customer, and his revelation afterward in the car and in bed that sloppy personal habits and "problems" aside, he is so rich he need not work, promises a solution to her problem: she, like her friends, will have money. But this is decentralized -- really center-less -- and clearly TV-influenced plotting. In traditional drama, the characters' lives would dovetail neatly in the end; in farce, the couples would recombine in amusing ways. Instead here, the characters have just been moved around a little, like checkers on a board in a game that ends in a draw. The episodes have the staccato separations that remain in cable television dramas even when there are no advertisements to interrupt them.
There are some interesting -- and repellent -- examples of bad behavior: the self-centered personal trainer; Jane's rude aggressions in public; Christine's and her husband's mean slurs during their fights. But unlike Neil LaBute, Holofcener doesn't show how moral failures or failures of will ruin relations between the sexes. She likes to play with our expectations. The slob customer is jobless, and he bargains Olivia down for the cleaning from $100 to $65, and then turns out be rich. The Aarons make us think Jane's husband really will turn out to be gay -- he tells her in bed, "You're my best friend." But in the end both the gay theme and the money theme seem like red herrings. Are the gay-seeming men a critique of machismo? Is money a source of happiness when there's enough of it? This movies hasn't got answers. But what I'm wondering is whether it has any questions. TV writing can be very good, as Sex and the City and Six Feet Under (two Holofcender has written for), Oz, The Sopranos, and various other programs show. But it doesn't always translate well into the single vessel of a movie.
Friends With Money is a quirky and shallow interpretation of friends, relationships and the ever present views on wealth. Although at times it seems to skim over certain issues that are produced, the overall movie left me with a confused contentment. It didn't answer all the questions and left it decidedly up to the audience to figure out and is possibly a good mirroring of life itself- sometimes things aren't just resolved and we are left to our imaginations to decide how we want it to end. Although many people did not recommend the movie, I found it was a beautiful epitome of a more modern indie film that the main actors rise spectacularly to. Jennifer Aniston (whom I must admit is not one of my most favorite actresses at the moment following her box-office bombs) plays a smaller role but does so in an unimposing way, and allows the other great cast to have their fair share of the movie as well. Altogether, I found it confusing at times and yet agreeable in the end. Not for the pickiest of film critics, this movie is to be enjoyed whilst in a more airy state of mind. Enjoy and try to look at the movie as more of an art- not just any old movie.
Once you get through the first half-hour of this film, you've seen essentially all you need to see, plot-wise: four friends, three of whom have money, and all of whom are "stuck" in some way. Thank goodness for Frances McDormand, whose superb acting makes this movie watchable long after the scenes start repeating themselves. Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack are also very good to watch, even if their roles do not allow for much development. Jennifer Anniston's role and her ability to carry the part are both severely flawed: Anniston brings absolutely no personality to the part, and the part itself doesn't ever really develop. For this movie, it's a fatal predicament, since Anniston's role is the central one.
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