Friday, April 07, 2006

Friends with Money - Movie Review

Friends with Money 2006

The latest and by far the least from writer / director Nicole Holofcener is titled “Friends with Money”. It features a quartet of four extremely talented actresses – Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and Jennifer Aniston – who have a total of eight Oscar nominations and one win between them. (Okay, Jennifer is the odd woman out in the Gold Derby, but she does proudly possess an Emmy award and five nominations for her most famous role . . . which if we have to name it, we’re gonna have to come over to your house and beat the shit out of you.)

It also, unfortunately features clichéd characters, Parkinson’s inducing jerky hand held camerawork for no apparent esthetic reason and a complete and total lack of plot or narrative drive that inspires the helpless audience to slowly drift off into their own little dreamworld where they can indulge in shameful erotic fantasies about two of the male co-stars – that humpy piece of third tier Hollywood royalty, Scott Caan and chiseled jawed Jason Isaacs who just keeps getting hotter everytime we see him, despite his muppet lips . . . you know that really used to bother us more, but lately we think that smallish lips are really too meager a point to dwell upon. Honestly, there are far more interesting areas to Jason’s anatomy to contemplate – and hey, we’d be perfectly happy spending some quality “slap and tickle” time with Scott Caan. Who, by the way, did we tell you kids about the last time we were at the Chateau Marmont and happened to lay our smoky eyes upon that tight piece of ass! Whew! He is truly built like a mini-Michelangelo’s David.

Ahem. Where were we? Oh, yes. “Friends with Money.” If you think our previous paragraph was chatty and non-linear and completely without rhyme or reason, then you’ll love this movie. But what’s it about, you ask? Nothing. Were you not paying attention, you twits? Okay, fine. It’s about four friends played by Frannie, Cathy, Joan and Jenny who get together to remind themselves that they actually were nice people at one time in their lives, but now that they are all married with children and money – except for Jennifer, and they are bitter, whiny shrews who keep coming up with excuses to question their pampered existence and torment their mates. Not that the husbands are catches. Except Jason Isaacs. We don’t care what kind of jerk he’s playing. He’s still ever so dreamy. Unfortunately, the other two mates as played by Simon McBurney and Greg Germann are mere fodder for the jokester bin.

Simon portrays Frances’ husband who everybody assumes is secretly gay because he happens to enjoy cashmere sweaters and clean lines. Greg exists in a sitcom world, where his only prerequisite is being able to supply fictional sperm to Joan Cusack’s character in order for them to discuss briefly the questionable sexuality of their young children. Which makes us suspect that Nicole Holofcener must have some real issues regarding the sexuality of the men in her life. One “Do you think he’s gay?” crack we could take. The seventy eighth time it was mentioned, we wanted to scream “WE DON’T CARE!!! GET ON WITH IT!!!”

The only ostensibly happy person in this screenplay is Jennifer Aniston who is the one friend without a husband, career or untold millions. And while most of us would assume that love, money and societal status help assuage the callous day to day doldrums or banal tortures of our very existence – clearly Miss Aniston’s character is here to tell us that love and happiness can indeed be found without selling out. All you have to do is become a maid. Obviously that doesn’t work for some people.

And ultimately the film didn’t work for us. While we have never been proponents of the belief that we must connect with one of the protagonists in order to enjoy a film – honestly, we’re not that self absorbed, we do believe that we should not be bored to tears by the main characters. Their problems are so mundane, so petty and finally so not worth our while that we just wanted to walk onto the screen and bitchslap all of them. Certainly the four lead actresses are fully capable of wonderful performances, but here they are given such trivial matters to react to, you might as well be watching repeats of “Thirtysomething”.

The three friends with money and their respective mates all exist in a television sitcom reality of characterizations. From Frances’ allegedly successful career as a boutique fashion designer to the elite – seriously gals, one look at her clothing line and the bitch would be lucky to be designing for the homeless. To the cringe inducing snippets of dialogue that Cathy and Jason’s characters create for their husband and wife “screenwriters” roles.

As for Joan and Greg, this is where the film bordered on the offensive. While we can forgive Nicole for short changing Greg’s character (Yes, you were fine on “Ally McBeal” years ago, but honestly how many Greg Germann fans are out there?), it is almost unforgivable for a writer / director known for providing middle aged actresses with juicy roles to completely miss the boat on Joan Cusack. She is a lovely and amazing actress in her own right, and sadly she is completely wasted here. The only reason we see for her character existing is to introduce Jennifer to the Scott Caan character in order to set up another completely unbelievable relationship.

Apparently, Scott has nothing better to do with his time than to follow Jennifer around on her maidly duties, and mock the households she cleans and then demand payment for his time. And while, yes he is built like a brick shithouse and can follow us around anywhere, at no point in the film do we believe that Jennifer’s character would be interested in the slightest. All of this would have been mildly irritating at least and boring to tits at most, if it were not for the whopper of a ridiculous ending that Nicole has in store for us. (And now, the ubiquitous “Spoiler Alert” for those of you who actually plan to waste your time in watching this drivel.)


As we slowly drummed our nails along the back of the seat in front of us, whiling away what seemed to be hours of endless petty arguments and ridiculous dialogue – we suddenly found ourselves slapped back into the unreality of the flick with a most disingenuous ending. It seems that one of Jennifer’s clients is a large untidy man who is apparently unemployed and barely getting by. When the rich bitch gals decide to invite Jenny to a $10K per table charity event, she caves in to the peer pressure and agrees to attend. By this point she has decided to move on with her life, from what and to what – who knows and who cares, and in speaking with large untidy man, she decides to invite him along as her guest.

Turns out, she is bizarrely attracted to him. Maybe she’s a chubby chaser, or maybe by this point Nicole Holofcener downed her seventh martini (Lord knows, we wish we had, wrong film to forget our hip flask.) and decided – “What the hell, they’re in love!” All this would not have bothered us if it weren’t for the Deus ex machina from hell. For you see, large untidy man is not unemployed, fat and lazy. He’s filthy rich, fat and lazy. To which, Jennifer’s eyes light up in an Anna Nicole Smith daze, and she realizes she has found her true love. Nice. Real nice. So much for believing that Jenny was the grounded one in the group waiting to realize her true potential and find a man who would love her for who she was. Turns out, she was in reality a gold digging money hungry whore like her “Friends with Money”. The end. And the end for us, for any future films brought forth from the poisoned pen of Nicole Holofcener. Bless you all!

Written & Directed by Nicole Holofcener

Jennifer Aniston as Olivia
Joan Cusack as Franny
Catherine Keener as Christine
Frances McDormand as Jane
Jason Isaacs as David
Scott Caan as Mike
Greg Germann as Matt
Simon McBurney as Aaron
Bob Stephenson as Marty
Ty Burrell as Aaron #2

Film Editing by Robert Frazen
Cinematography by Terry Stacey
Costume Design by Michael Wilkinson
Original Music by Rickie Lee Jones
Production Design by Amy B. Ancona
Art Direction by Victoria Ruskin
Set Decoration by Maria Nay


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