Friends With Money
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Nicole Holofcener
with Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, Jason Isaacs, Simon McBurney, Greg Germann, Scott Caan, Ty Burrell, Bob Stephenson, Romy Rosemont, Timm Sharp
release US 7.Apr.06, UK 26.May.06
06/US Sony 1h28

Friends with problems: McDormand and Aniston

mcdormand, aniston, keener and cusack isaacs germann caan


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Friends With Money Insightful and refreshingly open-handed, this ensemble drama taps into some painfully real emotions while maintaining an enjoyable comical tone. Holofcener (Lovely & Amazing) has a clever way of capturing true feelings without wallowing in them or giving into narrative clichés.

It's the story of four friends: Olivia (Aniston) is the only single one, still obsessed with her ex and unsure what to do with her life. Fashion designer Jane (McDormand) is in a midlife crisis that has nothing to do with her loving but possibly gay husband (McBurney). Christine (Keener) is struggling to get her life into focus, and it probably does have something to do with her too-focussed husband (Isaacs). And Franny (Cusack) and her husband (Germann) seem to have no trouble at all simply because they're stinking rich.

This is a film about how people interact and remain friends even when their circumstances change dramatically. There's a strong sense of economic reality here that undermines their typical sense of denial. And the script knowingly examines what we must do to get on with life and make our personal journeys bearable--compromises, decisions, actions and, most of all, reactions that determine whether we enjoy living or drive everyone around us nuts.

The superb cast is, of course, wonderful. Aniston gives a refreshingly unglamorous performance as an aimless woman who thinks her friends are leaving her behind--she's terrific, and is also the film's lynchpin. Keener, McDormand and Cusack are simply perfect on screen as always, even though their characters are similarly flawed and not always very likeable. But by playing it so honestly, they win us over and let us see each woman's specific journey, even though Holofcener underplays the plot at every turn.

It's not necessarily easy to watch, mainly because it lacks a focussed, structured storyline and feels a bit over-familiar. This is a slice of life about four women at a key point in their personal lives and in their relationship together. Where they go and what they discover are often surprising. But the film's real power is in the way it makes us examine the choices we've made along the way.

cert 15 themes, language, brief sexuality 27.Apr.06

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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall