Dough Girls

Friends with Money

Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Keener, and Frances
McDormand star in a film written and directed by Nicole
Holofcener.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

Considering Jennifer Aniston’s puzzling super-celebrity status,
perhaps it’s worth noting that this movie is not TV’s
Friends with money, though that cast certainly pulled down
gobs of the stuff. Nay; this Friends is the next film by Nicole
Holofcener of Lovely and Amazing and Walking and
Talking
fame. A clarifying fact that will no doubt help you
predict that Friends with Money is probably a Catherine
Keener vehicle (check) in which a small clique of contemporary
Angelenos rehearse the bittersweet to hilarious foibles of coming
to terms with the rules of life’s rich game (double check). Add to
that a slew of subtexts nicely rendered, though.

Aniston plays Olivia, the one unmarried, unmonied member of a
Westside cohort. She’s left a teaching post, and now cleans houses
and smokes pot for a living. Her friends are either born rich (Joan
Cusack), achieved wealth (Frances McDormand), or sold a screenplay
(Keener). In an early scene, Cusack asks to which charity she
should donate two million simoleans, and one of the husbands
wonders why not give it to Olivia? Later, one wonders a lot, why
not? (Note to my wealthy friends: Why not?) It’s a
powerful depiction of love’s weak-force hold on money told in a
simple, though ultimately quasi-fairytale fashion.

McDormand rules the pack. Playing a successful fashion designer
with a nice marriage and child, she’s gradually revealed to be a
soft-core crank. Complaining bitterly over daily slights — being
cut off for a parking space, not getting good service in a
high-priced eatery — she also wonders aloud whether mere survival
was The Point. She’s depressed, but keenly dialed into making the
world a nicer place, too. All the women are nuts but perceptively
so.

It’s a nice, engaging film. Clichés bend to unexpected graceful
turns. With this powerful cast of women, it’s like extra credit
that the men turn in such good performances, too, particularly
Simon McBurney as McDormand’s (maybe gay or maybe not) hubbie. It’s
not going to make poverty or pot smoking seem preferable to wealth,
but this Friends does build a case for our universal
access to laughter and to tears.

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