Friends with Money

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        Friends with Money was #1 on my must-see list. I had been awaiting it avidly since I first saw the trailer, and I had to wait two extra weeks after it opened until it made it to this non-select city. Then Robin said that, after seeing the trailer, she didn't want to see it. And Jan, who lives in a select city, already saw it and hated it. This was troubling, but then it's always a good idea to lower your expectations a bit. Expectations, which are too high, are the biggest enemy of movie enjoyment! The reason I wanted to see Friends with Money can be explained in six words: Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack. These are three of my favorite actresses. They tend to make small character-driven films and are showing that there is some life for actresses who are over 40. Frances is 48, Catherine is 46 and Joan is the baby at 43. I am always looking for a good screenplay, but as far as I'm concerned these three actresses could read from the phonebook and make it interesting. I could wait two more paragraphs and keep you in anticipation but I won't. I liked this movie.

        Friends with Money tells the story of three friends with money, the aforementioned, McDormand, Keener and Cusack, as well as one with no money who is working as a maid (Jennifer Aniston). The other difference between Aniston and her friends is that they are all married and she doesn't even have a boyfriend. Ok, this is the cross that Aniston has to bear, that this is the most unbelievable plot point in the movie. But, even beautiful women can have issues. She is pining after and stalking a married ex-boyfriend, and looking for love in all the wrong places, i.e. Scott Caan. Cusack and her happy-go-lucky husband (Greg Germann) are blissful, but Keener is about to split from her insensitive husband (Jason Isaacs), and McDormand's husband (Simon McBurney) seems to be gay but doesn't know it. Friends with Money focuses on these four women, their relationships with each other and the men in their lives. Aniston smokes some dope and is very passive compared to her friends, as if she is waiting for something to happen. Her life is a microcosm for what they are all going through. She is trying to find her place in the world, and the jobs and men come and go since she doesn't know or won't go after what she wants. Cusack's character is closest to being where she wants to be in life. McDormand is so cranky that she doesn't notice that she is driving her husband into the arms of another man. And Keener is so busy fighting with her husband about their house renovation that she doesn't realize they are close to divorce.

        The cast is great but maybe you guessed I would say that. The only surprise is Jennifer Aniston who easily holds her own against these acting heavyweights. She is doing very well for herself with her post-Friends movie choices. Aside from the comedies that you would expect her to make like Along Comes Polly and Bruce Almighty, she is taking some chances with movies like The Good Girl and Derailed. Even Rumor Has It, which isn't that great, is a movie with a good cast that rises above its material. And remember, Jennifer Aniston is pushing forty. Soon, she will be one of those good forty-something actresses. Cusack, McDormand and Keener do very well as usual, especially since their characters are not all that loveable. Cusack in particular shows that she can do something other than screwball comedy. Scott Caan (Ocean's Eleven) is good as Aniston's nasty boyfriend. He looks like his father, James Caan, has been squeezed down into a smaller volume. It's like the special effects they used in The Lord of the Rings to make John Rhys-Davies look like Gimli the Dwarf. Jason Isaacs is used to playing guys who aren't nice, i.e., Lucius Malfoy, so this part isn't much of a stretch. Greg Germann, who I have loved since his Ally McBeal days, is nice here in a small part. And Simon McBurney really throws himself into the part of McDormand's very metrosexual husband.

        Friends with Money was directed by Nicole Holofcener, who is mostly a director of HBO TV shows such as Six Feet Under and Sex and the City, but she did direct the semi-autobiographical, Lovely and Amazing. Her TV work is perfect preparation for Friends with Money. She does a good job with what is a very difficult job these days, i.e., making a movie with no action. There are no car chases or fistfights. The closest thing to action comes when McDormand runs into a plate-glass window and breaks her nose. Even I have a little trouble getting into movies like this now. They are so different from most movies made today. Friends with Money is just scenes with people sitting and talking, or walking and talking. That's it. You actually have to pay attention and listen. And you have to do that just to see whether you like it or not! Even then, it's no sure thing. But I think that Friends with Money is worth it.