Director: Nicole Holofcener
The follow-up to Nicole Holofcener’s critically acclaimed film about female body image issues (Lovely and Amazing), Friends With Money was not only the opening night selection at the Sundance Film Festival but also one of the most high profile independent films airing there that particular year, mostly due to the unfortunate paparazzi overload and interest in the film’s star Jennifer Aniston, whose breakup with husband Brad Pitt was cruelly thrust into the spotlight by eager reporters. Had they been more interested in the film and less in Aniston’s personal life, they would have discovered the actress in her best performance since The Good Girl as Olivia, a former private school instructor turned maid, who left her previous position due to mean rich students. Aniston has always been at her best when showing her range and steering clear of characters similar to the one that made her (and her memorable “Rachel” hair) famous on the television series Friends and she is simply mesmerizing in this emotionally risky role as a lost woman, lacking in confidence and down on her luck. Meanwhile her three wealthy friends, Christine (Holofcener regular Catherine Keener), Franny (Joan Cusack) and Jane (Frances McDormand) deal with problems of their own. Underused and merely serving as the seemingly "normal" one of the lot, Cusack’s role is easily overshadowed by her costars, most notably Frances McDormand who plays a rage-fueled woman upset by the increasing rudeness and insensitivity of everyday society and unwilling to wash her hair for complaint that it tires her arms and will only get dirty again. Christine (Keener) speculates that Jane’s rage comes from her otherwise seemingly contented marriage to a most likely gay but loving and oblivious man. Meanwhile, Keener finds her marriage to her screenwriting partner deteriorating to such an extent that she doesn’t notice for weeks after he shaves and he doesn’t even think to ask when she calls out in pain after a kitchen burn. While a challenging and confrontationally painful film to be sure, Holofcener’s dialogue always stings with authenticity (see her debut Walking and Talking for another example) and it’s compelling viewing even if we’re mostly only fascinated by two of the characters in the film (Aniston’s Olivia and McDormand’s Jane) as it is admittedly hard to care about such self-involved and unlikable personalities in the cases of Keener’s storyline or one nearly devoid of plot such as Joan Cusack’s. Holofcener is getting more mature with her films tackling the perils of matrimony and long-term love along with the inevitable evolution and changes in friendships and personal priorities over several years. For her work in Friends With Money, Nicole Holofcener received the Women in Film Crystal Award’s Dorothy Arzner Director Award.