Friends with Money (2006)
Go for Aniston, stay for Keener
"Friends With Money" seems like an incomplete film. It's as if
writer-director Nicole Holofcener either got tired of her characters
and simply ran out of ideas. I don't mind films where nothing much
happens or there is no narrative conclusion. But there seems something
awfully unfinished and undeveloped about this movie.
On the other hand, what makes it watchable are the performances.
Jennifer Aniston does her best work since "The Good Girl" (2002). She
still has the best chance of the "Friends" cast to have a sterling film
career, if she continues doing work like this - at least playing
characters like Olivia. She should stay away from playing femmes fatale
- her performance in last year's dismal "Derailed" was ample proof
she's not ready to venture into Stanwyck or Fiorentino territory, yet.
But Aniston has a fine sense of finding that line between comedy and
drama without pushing either one too far. Her Olivia is a believable
person who just has incredibly lousy taste in men - thus far. Watching
the hurt and disappointment on Aniston's face when Mike's (Scott Caan)
true character comes out shows this woman's got talent.
Mike actually might be this film's most intriguing and interesting
character. Caan's very good in the role and just when you think you
like him, he does something despicable.
Holofcener's film centers around a group of friends, most of whom are
affluent, if not stinking rich. The exception is Olivia. And throughout
the film, Holofcener unveils their pains, insecurities and flaws.
Joan Cusack plays the guilt-ridden wealthy woman well and Catherine
Keener, again, proves why she remains so incredibly under-rated. Here's
an actress who can take small moments in a film and turn them into
unforgettable ones. Keener's so completely compelling and honest in her
performance. Christine's discussions with her husband, David (Jason
Isaacs), never ring false thanks to two strong performances.
The weak link in the film really is Frances McDormand's Jane. This
isn't the wonderful McDormand's fault. Trouble is, Holofcener paints
McDormand's Jane as such a one-dimensional person - a woman who turns
her suppressed rage into a rather annoying persona. Holofcener never
bothers to penetrate the surface of Jane's problems. We just know she's
angry and that's all we see of her. It's a shame because a woman of
McDormand's infinite acting talents deserved a much richer character.
"Friends With Money" seems rather superficial at times because, unlike
Holofcener's previous two films, this one simply skirts the surface of
the characters. With the exception of Olivia and, to a lesser extent,
Christine, we never see other sides to these people.
There's more to their stories. Much more. But Holofcener shows no
interest in going there.
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