Monday, May 15, 2006

Friends with Money

2006, US, directed by Nicole Holofcener

Rating: ***

With all of her bubblegum success, it's easy to forget that Jennifer Aniston has some tricks up her acting sleeve; she's the best thing in Nicole Holofcener's engaging and often very funny film, quite a trick when the company includes Frances McDormand and the ever-luminous Catherine Keener; Aniston's lack of vanity here is especially notable. The three actresses - and Joan Cusack, to whom I've never warmed - play a quartet of Los Angeles pals, who, along with their various significant others, lead intertwined lives in which - hence the title - money or the lack thereof plays a major role. Of course, Aniston's cause is immeasurably helped by the fact that she plays much the most pleasant of the four women, even with a vein of mania; McDormand in particular has to mine a vein of unpleasant pettiness that's the antithesis of her more accustomed salt-of-the-earth types (particularly post-Fargo). While Holofcener creates a galaxy of strong, interesting female roles, she's not interested in white-washing her characters, which lends the film considerable dramatic tension, even when things start out civilized. Structurally, the writer-director also does a fine job of interweaving the very different stories, never allowing any one character to spend too much time either on or off screen, while still ensuring that the changes of tempo aren't distracting.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States