Nicole Holofcener's 'Friends with Money' (2006)

The advertising and promotion for this film really tried to convince me that Friends with Money was a typical the bonds of female friendship are stronger than relationships with men type of movie, but Nicole Holofcener's third film is a decidedly depressing affair.

Like her previous project Lovely & Amazing, Holofcener interweaves the day-to-day experiences of four very different women. Sticking to her strengths, Holofcener has made a modest movie, one that relies on engaging characters and dialogue rather than plot. All of the characters, not just the women, are very real and flawed. Even Christine, whose husband is obviously a bit of a jerk, is not entirely a victim in their failing marriage, as she picks fights with him while they are writing and refuses to admit that she, indeed, refuses to see the consequences of her actions. Holofcener does not glamourize her leads — Aniston spends most of the movie in sweats, McDormand's hair is almost always greasy — and all of the actresses look their ages.

Across the board, the acting is strong, but the stand-out performances belong to Frances McDormand and Simon McBurney. McDormand delivers as usual with a nuanced and scene-stealing portrayal of pre-menopausal Jane. Aaron is probably the most sympathetic character of the group and I really enjoyed his character arc. Holofcener keeps teasing the audience with "Will Aaron have an affair with a man?" and more broadly with "Is he gay?". Ultimately the answer to that question doesn't really matter. Gay or not, Aaron is a supportive husband, a loving father, and he is committed to his family. McBurney plays him with a sexual ambiguity that does not tarry into ham-fisted "queen" behaviour and a gentle earnestness that answers the audience's possible questions of why Jane would remain married to Aaron if he were gay. Joan Cusack is underused as Franny, indie queen Catherine Keener offers a customary solid performance, and Jennifer Aniston continues to flesh out her post-Friends resume with another respectable turn in an indie flick. (She really needs to stick with indie films, because all of her mainstream movies have been embarrassingly bad.)