Friends With Money

on April 07, 2006 by Francesca Dinglasan
Following the heartaches, disappointments and quiet revelations of three affluent married women and their financially struggling single pal, "Friends With Money" offers a more engaging and nuanced plotline than usually associated with run-of-the-mill chick flicks. Although the level of character development fluctuates among the various couples, at times leaving the narrative feeling insufficient, the solid performances behind Nicole Holofcener's smart script are likely to provide enough appeal to keep its target audience engaged until the film's open ending.

Franny (Joan Cusack) and Matt (Greg Germann) rank as the richest of the richies, quietly content with their fortune and eager to donate to charitable organizations. Successful clothing designer Jane (Frances McDormand) is reacting to a midlife crisis with a sort of unbridled hostility that perplexes those close to her, including her meterosexual husband Aaron (Simon McBurney), whom everyone suspects is really gay. The third couple is scriptwriting partners Christine (Catherine Keener) and David (Jason Isaacs), whose surface tranquility slowly unravels with successive criticisms of one another and an ultimate disagreement on a home expansion project that leaves them hated by their upscale Los Angeleno neighbors.

As the sole unmarried woman in the group, Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) becomes a pet project for her more well-off friends. Having quit her job as a high-school teacher, Olivia is barely making ends meet through her work as a maid. Dependent on sample giveaways at department store makeup counters and too quick to accept hourly cleaning rates lower than her asking price, she evidently suffers from low self-esteem despite her obvious attractiveness. While Olivia's friends semi-consider donating money to her instead of their other philanthropic causes, they actually partake in less demeaning activities, including arranging housekeeping gigs with acquaintances and setting her up on a blind date with Franny's personal trainer Mike (Scott Caan).

In her third big-screen writing effort, Holofcener directs her script with a detachment that very much complements the subtlety of the film's interwoven narratives. Resolutions are gradual, understated; no grandiose or overly cinematic solutions to life's everyday traumas here. Turns from the ensemble cast underscore Holofcener's approach, although it's really the women who form the emotional core of the pic, while their husbands and lovers are relegated to the background. This inequality, however, doesn't necessarily negate the overall effect, with astute dialogue all around serving as the currency that drives "Friends With Money." Starring Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, Jason Isaacs, Scott Caan, Simon McBurney, Greg Germann, Ty Burrell and Bob Stephenson. Directed and written by Nicole Holofcener. Produced by Anthony Bregman. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Drama/Comedy. Rated R for sexual content and drug use. Running time: 88 min

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