FRIENDS WITH MONEY (Nicole Holofcener, 2006)
Tired of being teased by her wealthy students, Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) gives up teaching for life as a housekeeper in FRIENDS WITH MONEY. Olivia is the only single woman in her circle of friends. She’s also the only one struggling financially, but the others have their own problems. Fashion designer Jane (Frances McDormand) seems to have an undiagnosed clinical depression. Screenwriter Christine (Catherine Keener) trades barbs with her increasingly hostile husband. Franny (Joan Cusack) uses her wealth as power when Olivia goes to her for help.
FRIENDS WITH MONEY is an observant slice of Los Angeles life that relishes the day-to-day dealings with friends and life’s struggles. Although these four friends, even Olivia, carry on lives more glamorous or extravagant than the average woman, they’re real and relatable, an all too rare commodity in today’s cinematic depictions of adult females.
With the burden of compensating for the portrayal of most other women in film, it's inevitable that FRIENDS WITH MONEY sometimes slips up. Although she's adrift personally and professionally, Olivia comes across like a male screenwriter's fantasy. Holofcener finds a nice dramatic resolution for Olivia's arc, but it seems highly unlikely in real life.
Despite the characters' problems, it's pleasant to spend time with them in this funny film. Aniston finally finds a good showcase for her talents and has some of the funniest scenes with a loutish fitness instructor played by Scott Caan. McDormand humorously expresses the simmering rage that boils up at the smallest slight in the parking lot or the Old Navy checkout line.
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener has a small but strong body of work about modern women and how they interact. FRIENDS WITH MONEY is a solid addition to a filmography that includes WALKING AND TALKING and LOVELY & AMAZING.