Sunday, November 6, 2022

Friends with Money

Movie Name: 
Friends with Money
Year of Release: 2006
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Jason Isaacs, Simon McBurney, Greg Germann, Timm Sharp, Jake Cherry, Scott Caan, Bob Stephenson, Marin Hinkle, Ty Burrell, Troy Ruptash
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5
Watch it on Amazon Prime

Synopsis and Review
After "Lovely & Amazing" which premiered in 2001 to solid reviews, writer/director Nicole Holofcener tackled a few directing jobs for reputable shows (including Alan Ball's "Six Feet Under"), before resuming her feature directorial career with "Friends with Money", which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film follows the story of a group of friends, 4 women who have known each other for quite some time. With the exception of Olivia, who is single, all the women are married. Jane is a fashion designer, who is having issues with getting older, and who has a supporting husband who wants to have another child (and who everyone thinks is gay). Christine is a screenwriter, and is tangled up in a renovation & expansion project with her house, and is constantly fighting with her husband, who seems to really not care or even bother with her, Finally there's Franny, who lives off a trust fund with her husband Matt. Olivia in the meantime has quit her job as a teacher, and now makes ends meet by being a cleaning lady. Her friends are all going through their own challenges, but are also concerned about Olivia's relationships so much that Franny in particular decides to set her up with her personal trainer. 
"Friends with Money" has the clear benefit of having a terrific cast, one that is capable of making all these characters imminently watchable and viewable. However, what they can't really do is actually make these characters particularly interesting, and therein lies the problem with the narrative and the film itself. While there's a somewhat contemplative tone to the film, the feature never truly questions any of the status quo of these individuals, what made their lives what they are, and why they stay in the relationships they have. Even the slightly homophobic tone that happens throughout the film towards Jane's husband ("he's clearly gay", as if that was possibly the worst thing in existence), never goes beyond that, nothing is ever truly explored about that character, aside from a flirtatious episode he has with Ty Burrell's character (and that episode itself and where it leads, is also of questionable taste in terms of what it hints at). Some possible emotional probing almost occurs with Christine and her relationship, but that is also wrapped up and quickly settled. In the end, Olivia's journey which seems the most distinct of all, particularly for all its challenges, also remains unsatisfying not because of its uncertainty, but mostly because her ambitions, longings and aspirations remain opaque and never truly rendered. It's a surprisingly shallow film, which never truly works neither as a satire nor as a dramatic vehicle. The saving grace for this film is indeed its cast, with everyone managing to make this enjoyable and watchable, particularly Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and Jason Isaacs, even if there's not much to it. It's watchable, but sadly not memorable.