SXSW: "Friends with Money" Review

by | March 14, 2006 | Comments

"Friends With Money" is a sharp dramedy about a group of four women; three affluent, and one in the midst of a tumultuous period in her life.

The film, directed and written by Nicole Holofcener, is remarkable in the way that it sees each of its characters, sharply played by Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener, so clearly and so fully; even in when the characters do something to earn our disapproval, they’re still self-questioning enough to earn our empathy.

The four friends are grappling with quite a lot, from the twists and turns of their relationships to the fact that they’re getting older. Olivia (Aniston) is working as a maid after abandoning her teaching career, and she feels out of place next to her much more affluent friends. Christine (Keener) and her husband are screenwriting partners, but she suspects he doesn’t care for others’ feelings at all. Jane (McDormand), is easily upset at slight injustices, from bad wait service to others’ driving etiquette, masking a desperation that her life has plateaued ("I guess there’s no more wondering what it’ll be like," she says). And Franny (Cusack) is alternately assured and insecure in her affluent lifestyle.

"Friends with Money" offers no easy resolutions, and at the end, things remain as unsettled as when they started. Much of the laughs are dry, some bitter, but they seem drawn from real life, not cinematic convention. This a rare film about social status in which the bourgeoisie is seen in three dimensions, with discreet charm.

Much of Jennifer Aniston’s appeal as a movie actress comes from the fact that she seems down for whatever; she has a weary, laconic affect. And Keener does what she does best, playing a character that is cynical and vulnerable in equal measure. None of the performances ring false; this is an ensemble piece of a high order.

With six reviews, "Friends with Money" currently stands at 83 percent on the Tomatometer.

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