FRIENDS WITH MONEY (2006)
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, Greg Germann, Simon McBurney, Jason Isaacs, Scott Caan, Ty Burrell, Bob Stephenson, Timm Sharp, Hailey Noelle Johnson, Jen Fee, Jake Cherry and Marin Hinkle.
Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener.
Directed by Nicole Holofcener.
Distributed by Sony Classic Pictures. 88 minutes. Rated R.
Friends with Money has some amazing acting, some very clever dialogue and some perceptive things to say about life and friendship. So why did sitting through it feel like such a chore?
It is because all of the characters in the movie are self-absorbed and unlikable. They are so fixated on their little lives and their problems that you can’t help but feel that maybe they are so involved in these tiny traumas that we don’t want to add to the mountain of self-pity.
The story tracks four longtime friends and their immediate families. They never say exactly where they all met, you assume school though it appears that Jennifer Aniston is at least five-ten years younger than all of the other stars.
Aniston is very good in the totally unbelievable and rather unlikable character of Olivia. Olivia is the one unmarried member of the circle of friends, and the one poor one. She was a teacher (a very good one her friends insist) but quit because the kids at her upscale school teased her about her old beat-up Honda. So instead she cleans houses and scams free cosmetic samples and whines on and on about her life. That’ll show those spoiled kids.
The problem, besides Olivia’s whininess, is that she is a total doormat. She allows people to walk all over her without a whimper — for sex, for money, for work. You just want to slap her and tell her to wake up and tell some of these people off — or at least just say no. Aniston had played a very similar character in The Good Girl, an overrated drama from a few years ago and another example of her doing a better job of playing a character than it deserves. Also, I’m sorry, while I know there are such desperate, self-esteem-impaired women out there, they just don’t look like Jennifer Aniston.
Joan Cusack plays Franny, a variation of her normal character — a pinched and uptight woman who tries to appear she is much more in control than she really is. Catherine Keener also has a kind of nothing role, half of a married screenwriting team who suddenly realizes towards the end of the film that her husband (Jason Isaacs) is not concerned about her feelings — which may be true, but still seems kind of a hollow point since she was nearly as unfeeling towards her neighbors and friends in everything leading up to this epiphany.
The last of the group is the most annoying — and again, Frances McDormand is not at all to blame for this. She does a wonderful job acting. However, her character of Jane is drained and draining, an angry and depressed clothing designer who is bitter towards just about everything. She has a British husband named Aaron (Simon McBurney) who dotes on her, but everyone thinks is gay — and he doesn’t seem to be totally sure, either. (Hmmm… that storyline isn’t overused in Hollywood).
Jane’s most unbelievable affliction to me was that she wouldn’t even wash her hair, though everyone who knew her commented on it. She said that if you wash you hair you just have to again the next day, and besides her arms get tired. However, I was at the movie with a psychotherapist who said he had a patient with the same affliction, she only washed her hair twice a year or so. When he once asked her why that was, she had a similar answer to McDormand’s character and even more concise. She said it was because it didn’t change anything. Of course, that led me to think, yes it does, it makes your hair cleaner. The world is full of things that may not be meaningful but are still necessary.
By the time Jane’s husband finally tires of her moodiness and asks her what she has to be so miserable about — she has a good career, close friends and a loving family — the audience can’t help but nod in agreement. Her angst seems totally self-involved and indulgent. Maybe that is the way depression goes, but it doesn’t make the character any more interesting to spend an hour and a half with at a theater.
In fact, none of the characters in Friends with Money were people that you would want to spend time with. When Joan Cusack’s rich husband (Greg Germann, formerly Fish in Ally McBeal) asked his wife if she would still be friends with Olivia if they were to meet today, and she has to acknowledge that she didn’t know that they would. Truthfully, at this point in their lives, I can’t see anyone wanting to become friends with any of them. Of course, none of these people would stop staring at their navels long enough to notice. (5/06)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 6, 2006.