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Overall Rating

Awesome: 1.45%
Worth A Look43.48%
Just Average: 13.04%
Pretty Crappy: 31.88%
Sucks: 10.14%

8 reviews, 21 user ratings

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Friends With Money
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by Todd LaPlace

"No amount of money is worth this tripe."
2 stars

“Friends with Money” tries to skate by on the depth of its shallowness. The four lead women — three married mothers with money and one with none of the above — crash into each other in seemingly random groupings to gossip about the others that are crashing and gossiping elsewhere. They talk about money. They talk about love. They talk about nothing meaningful. They talk a lot, but they never have anything to say.

As a top designer of beautiful, but overpriced, women’s fashion, Jane (Frances McDormand) should be living a dream life. She’s got plenty of disposable income, a group of old friends, a sweet son and an accommodating husband (a scene-stealing Simon Burney). Yet, riding home from an uncomfortable brunch with her husband’s new best friend and his wife, a grungy Jane stares out the window and laments “I guess there’s no more wondering what it’ll be like.” At 43, for better or worse, her life is what it is. All the spontaneity and uncertainty has fallen away and she finds herself stuck in an unsatisfying comfortable rut.

That midlife dissatisfaction seems to be a trend of writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s movies. Her previous two movies, “Lovely & Amazing” and “Walking and Talking,” both deal with women that focus solely on their problems, often to the detriment of their own happiness. “Friends with Money,” the story of four old friends and their financial divides, clearly follows the trend. Jane is so upset at her station she stops washing her hair, claiming “It’ll just get dirty again.” Christine (Holofcener’s go-to actress Catherine Keener), a married screenwriter, is adding a second story onto her house to cover up her flailing marriage to her co-writer David (Jason Isaacs). Franny’s (Joan Cusack), a fulltime homemaker thanks to an unspecified independent wealth, biggest problem is that she doesn’t know how to squander her crazy amounts of money. She gets angry at husband Matt (Greg Germann) for spending $85 on their kid’s shoes, but she’s an at-home mom with hired help. The fourth member of the gang is the only one without a husband or money. Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) quit her teaching job when her snobby rich students insultingly gave out quarters, and was forced to resort to becoming a maid to make ends meet. She stalks makeup counters for free samples, dates a string of losers and blows what little money she has on pot.

The foursome (seven when you include husbands) occasionally meet at snooty benefits to talk about their oodles of money and, frequently, Olivia’s lack thereof, or their spotty marriages and, frequently, Olivia’s lack thereof. Then they collide into each other again in random grouping and talk about the same things again, but only about the situations of the friends not around. At one point, Franny questions the group, asking if they had just met if they would have become friends. It’s a valid question, because Holofcener never gives us any indication the answer would be yes. They’re friends now because they used to be, and it’s more convenient to keep up the lie. Occasionally they pointedly connect — when one marriage heads towards divorce and again when Jane has a breakdown (and a broken nose) at Old Navy — but even those moments just provide fodder for returning to their superficial friendships. Waiting to hear about Jane’s condition, her husband Aaron and her three friends show concern for about thirty seconds before launching back into a debate of Olivia’s financial and love situations.

In the past few years, as talkie indies have ruled the critical landscape, it’s become customary to marvel at the guts it takes to eschew the Hollywood machine. We marvel as these movies, which include Holofcener’s “Lovely & Amazing,” receive near unanimous praise and paltry box office returns, and then we cry foul when they inevitably lose the major awards to some form of mainstream Oscar bait. Part of me wants to do the same thing with “Friends with Money.” How fortunate it is that so many talented actresses would drop their pretensions to appear in such a small movie! How brave it is to make a movie about the interworkings of female relationships when the only draw is dialogue! But to me, to praise this movie is to be duped by this movie. The finished picture feels more like the outline of a movie that Holofcener was just too lazy to finish. The concept behind Jane’s unhappiness — reaching the point where there’s nothing left to accomplish — is solid, but it’s never fleshed out. The problem is nothing is fleshed out. The characters exist, but there’s no motivation behind their existence. They’re shells, dressed in Jane’s overpriced clothes.

If we liken “Friends with Money” to other talkie indies about midlife dissatisfaction, like “Sideways” or “Lost in Translation,” the distinction between them is clear. We understand Miles and Bob, and we can empathize with their dilemmas. They’re given emotional depth through both their backstories and their unhealthy interactions with those around them. The women of “Friends with Money” lack such resonance. They all have a lot of thoughts which they choose to freely articulate, but they never really say anything. They gossip about Aaron’s potential homosexuality, Christine’s miserable marriage and Olivia’s loser personal trainer boyfriend (Scott Caan), but that’s all they have to talk about. The actresses do their best to make it believable — all four give outstanding performances — but all they’re given in fluff. It was suggested to me that I don’t understand the movie because I’m a guy, and that this is really how female adult relationships are. If that’s the case, I pity women everywhere. No one deserves to be stuck in this talkie indie nightmare.

There’s a quote from Aaron Sorkin’s short-lived “Sports Night” that seems to be appropriate here. “I understand what makes a woman think that any man is better than nothing. I’ll just never understand what makes a woman think she’s got nothing.” Whether the women in “Friends with Money” are dealing with men or money, they seem to follow the same philosophy. They all think they’ve got nothing, and they’re going tell you about it over and over again for an agonizing 88 minutes.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13575&reviewer=401
originally posted: 04/09/06 03:11:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2006 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/22/10 the dork knight Mediations on postmodern ennui, with arguably sexist female stereotypes. 3 stars
3/29/09 amir so natural and beliveble without redundant 4 stars
1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Well made. 4 stars
9/14/08 Emily Incredibly boring. Everyone knows people like these, and you try to avoid them at all costs 1 stars
3/29/08 Pamela White much ado about nothing with money 3 stars
3/02/08 ravenmad 2 many stories. Tthe gay couple story was the most interesting. 3 stars
1/20/08 mb There is nothing there. 2 stars
8/13/07 Annonomiss Surprising gem with a low-key undertone. Loved unexpectedness of the characters' actions! 4 stars
12/04/06 Jen Kept waiting for something to happen. Sudden ending--no resolution. Very unsatisfying. 1 stars
10/11/06 Dawn I kept waiting for the "plot" to unfold and it just never did. Would not recommend seeing 1 stars
9/28/06 Jeff Anderson Unfocused, unsatisfying & film's hopelessly dull. A real shame! 1 stars
9/27/06 Juules This is one of the most boring, unsatifing and dullest films ever! 1 stars
4/30/06 Maggie I just saw this movie and felt is was BORING, SLOW, DULL with no story. 1 stars
4/24/06 Kimberly Disappointing! Ended abruptly but thank god it did. 1 stars
4/22/06 Mase Hofofcener may be a new female woody allen, however aniston is wildly miscast. 4 stars
4/22/06 Howard A 1 and 1/2 hour movie that took 4 hours to watch. 2 stars
4/21/06 Debra L Fox Not to quibble, but Jennifer Aniston's movie "The Good Girl" is from 2002, not 1992! 4 stars
4/10/06 Virginia Helfman An excellent film -- really lovely. 5 stars
4/04/06 Katrina Ok wouldn't spend more then a rental fee on it though 2 stars
3/25/06 Sylvia Augustiniok It may work for a television audience. Trivial and disappointing. 2 stars
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  07-Apr-2006 (R)
  DVD: 29-Aug-2006



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