Friends With Money

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Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand
Director: Nicole Holofcener

George Lucas, founder of probably the biggest blockbuster franchise of all time, said recently that the future of movies is all indie. According to Lucas, the days of the blockbuster are numbered. In the future, expensive films will be exterminated by ones of a lower-budget nature, with the cost of an average movie rarely exceeding $15 million. And George, after all, should know these things. But he’s not the only one expanding on these ideas.

These days many an established Hollywood name is grasping at opportunities to do a bit of the low-budget stuff, for various reasons, among them diversity, more acting freedom, credibility and the ultimate challenge to show off their skill. And not forgetting the most important: to be taken “seriously”. FRIENDS WITH MONEY is precisely the kind of indie that attracts a big-name cast, leading everyone to believe that it is special, which it has the potential to be, and duping everyone into thinking that it’s mainstream, which it’s not.

Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Scott Caan and Jason Isaacs are some of the heavyweights fronting this cosmopolitan story about the lives and struggles of three rich women and their one poor friend (who works as a maid and who lives off freebies, played by Jennifer Aniston). We see their imperfect-perfect lives, struggles and relationships, and are shown that these are ordinary people with ordinary problems. Really it’s a bickering session, a reminder that money isn’t everything (although it does make life more liveable!), and that friendship isn’t all about the dough anyway. This could also possibly be a release of creative tension for the cast in the film, especially Frances McDormand, who deals with menopause by neglecting to wash her hair. McDormand with filthy hair is always interesting.

The story holds up superficially – mainly due to the acting talent on display – but never digs deeper to reveal what’s underneath the semblance, probably because there isn’t much logic there to begin with. It’s unclear why or how these people became friends in the first place, and most of all, why the Jennifer Aniston character fits (or misfits) in this group. It’s also worth a wonder why, with all this cash rolling around, somebody doesn’t help the poor girl so she doesn’t have to clean other people’s toilets anymore. Surely in real life you don’t let your best mate struggle when you have more than enough to dish out?

Problems like these aside, the script manages to have the right balance of comedy and drama to keep it going and it stays on the lighter entertainment side rather than delving into something it wouldn’t be able to handle, which is a big plus. The understated shooting style obviously fits in because it complements, or rather, highlights the acting, which, by the way, is great.

Not a bad way to spend one and a half hours; although if you’re a guy who has a partner or wife with friends that all complain incessantly, you could invite them over and catch a similar show for free…

4 out of 6 stars