Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Movie Review of "Friends With Money"

I saw a fascinating movie over the weekend called Friends With Money. It got a lot of positive attention at Sundance this year, and now it's out in theaters in limited release. I have to say that not only did I like the film, it's the first time I actually liked Jennifer Aniston in a movie (before Friends With Money, I thought she was the cinematic equivalent of a black hole).

The film follows a circle of friends that include three wealthy Los Angeles-area couples and their single, down-on-her-luck friend, Olivia, played by Jennifer Aniston. In the film, Olivia's a maid. I think Nicole Holofcener, who wrote and directed the film, maybe could have thought a little harder about which job an attractive, English-speaking white female in Los Angeles who quits a teaching job is likely to have because, for me, 'maid' isn't even going to make the top ten list. Executive assistant, perhaps? But, to her credit, Holofcener does a good job selling Olivia as a maid, in part my making us believe she's probably not working as a maid entirely out of economic necessity, but partly out of a need to punish herself. Friends With Money presents a lot of middle-aged angst, which I enjoy, partly because I like to watch the characters either find ways through their existential crises, or not find their way. Friends With Money features characters who do both. The film isn't particularly eventful in the typical three-act structure sense of the word, but it's also not ever boring. It's actually full of fantastic little details that resonate because they feel like the truth. Details like showing how Aniston's character keeps herself stocked with expensive face creams she can't afford, or how a married screenwriting duo works together in their home office, or how Olivia's sort-of boyfriend, Mike, a callow, BMW-driving personal trainer (played to perfection by Scott Caan), asks for his "cut" of Aniston's house-cleaning pay even though he's done nothing to help her. (Even more telling is that she actually gives him the money.) There's a lot of great, deftly rendered moments like these throughout this movie. And it's worth seeing just to see how Aniston can be in a film without killing every scene she's in. I know, isn't that amazing? Maybe breaking up with Brad made her a more watchable actress, who knows?

Anyway, you can read an interview with the director here. She talks about her own feelings of "self-loathing" coming out in the film, she tells the interviewer, laughingly, "I'm as repellent as everyone else", and she also says that "even women can be ass-holes". I've never heard a female director be so down-to-earth and honest with her opinions, so after reading it I said, "Yeah, I have to see that one." So, if you get the opportunity, I recommend you check out Friends With Money. More tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

ooh, you're back. With this.

harwell said...

Wow, burn. Ouch.

I'm surprised to hear this movie moved you Crane, but then again I never quite understood the appeal of THE RELIC either.

At any rate, you should check out ebertandroeper.tv for their review of Friends w/ Money (which is different from the TV show Friends, because they clearly had no money, nor did their friends). They split their thumbs wide open on this one.

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