F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 2, 2010)

2 07 2010

This week’s “F.I.L.M.” is Nicole Holofcener’s probing social comedy “Friends with Money.” If you look at the poster and see Jennifer Aniston and instantly think, “This movie is going to be stupid,” be prepared to think twice. It’s an incredibly, perhaps surprisingly, deep look at the effects of money and social class on four friends in Los Angeles. It rounds all the bases, touching on all the big issues that an obsession with money can bring.

Jane (Frances McDormand) is a successful fashion designer who is perhaps the most money-driven of the bunch. She unabashedly and unashamedly asks people about how much money they make, how much they are donating, and how much they spend. Whether it’s because of her crumbling marriage or potentially entering menopause, she has become increasingly frank and short-tempered.

Franny (Joan Cusack) is a trust fund baby living comfortably with her husband and child. She’s a little shy talking about how much money she has, largely because of its source.

Christine (Catherine Keener) is a television writer, teamed with her husband (Jason Isaacs). Giddy from the rush of money, she decides to expand their house upwards to see the ocean without considering its effect on her neighbors. But marital frustrations begin to take its toll on her work; however, they also open her eyes to how her actions have unexpectedly affected the world around her.

Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) is their idea of a charity case friend. She’s quit her job as a teacher to become a maid. She’s single and hasn’t had a steady boyfriend in years. She still smokes pot and wanders through life with no direction or sense of purpose.

Each of the women undergoes a metamorphosis over the course of the movie’s 88 minutes. Holofcener creates four wonderfully elaborate women whose stories unfold before our very eyes. The character study is incredibly effective and entertaining, largely due in part to the wittiness of the script.

But the movie is carried by the actresses, all of whom give wonderful performances. Joan Cusack plays nothing new – the mildly insecure but ultimately warmhearted woman – but it’s a comfortable territory for her and thus comfortable for us to watch. Catherine Keener undergoes one of the movie’s biggest transformations, and she nails it with her typical pitch-perfect grace. Frances MacDormand is absolutely hysterical as she speaks her mind with no filter.

And bring on the puzzled looks – the star of “Friends With Money” is Jennifer Aniston. Her Olivia is by far and away the film’s most complicated character, and in the hands of Aniston, she is completely realized. We can buy every move she makes and feel the emotion behind each line. All you Jennifer Aniston haters out there, watch this movie. You may not be silenced, but it should shut you up for a little while.

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