Written by: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, Jason Isaacs
No matter where they sit on the socioeconomic ladder, everyone has their issues to work through. They may not always compare with the problems of those facing more dire situations, but they still exist. Though clumsily told in some parts and feeling a bit incomplete, Friends with Money manages to both shine a light and make fun of the particular issues a group of four women battle through as they reach middle age.
Working as a maid for money, Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) cannot compare financially to her other friends, Christine (Catherine Keener), Jane (Frances McDormand), and Franny (Joan Cusack), who all have a certain level of wealth. While Olivia continues to find enough money to live, Christine deals with a crumbling marriage, Jane exerts anger for no real reason, and Franny tries to help her friends in the best way she can.
No one can do likable white privilege movies better than Nicole Holofcener and I contend she’s the only one who should continue to try and do them. Despite the many eye-roll worthy moments displayed throughout the feature, Holofcener always finds a way, through the script, to elevate their positive qualities to make them likable to some degree. I would not begrudge anyone disgusted at the issues we’re meant to care for in this particular film, but the satirization and hypocrisy Holofcener works through in the feature makes the viewing experience worth it.
An aspect of friendship Friends with Money absolutely nails is the pettiness existent even between people proclaiming to truly care for each other. Passive-aggressive comments galore, which only get fully expressed in the comfort of their vehicles on the way home. This gets played out at the very beginning of the film when the quartet of friends and their partners gather at a restaurant for dinner. The extent of their friendship comes into question but the four women seem close with varying levels of wealth. It becomes quite obvious Franny and her husband have accrued the most amount of money when they discuss donating $2 million dollars to their child’s school. An exorbitant number, especially considering Olivia’s working as a maid to pay for her basic bills. The class dynamics operate in full steam between these friends with Jane and Christine in-between Franny and Olivia on the financial ladder.
While Olivia deals with real financial issues, including grabbing free samples from department stores in order to keep up with her skincare routine, the issues the other women face each reach a level where it bothers them but ultimately feels pointless to someone struggling to put food on the table. This comes from each of them displaying a level of self-absorbance where they cannot fathom how their actions come across to others. For Christine it appears when trying to add another level to her home, thus aggravating the neighbors. It’s not until she gets put right into the shoes of others does she actually see why others would not like her for this new renovation. The most glaring example comes with Jane and her particular issue of getting angry with others. Working as a fashion designer who successfully sells pricey items, she gets angry at the smallest things even to the point where she becomes a complete “Karen” when she believes she was skipped in line at Old Navy. It becomes quite difficult to sympathize with her at the moment, but Holofcener never seeks that with her. If anything, the narrative wants us to laugh at her, especially with what immediately follows within the same scene.
The biggest factor contributing to forming a connection with these women comes from the warm performances put on this wonderful quartet of actors. Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, and Jennifer Aniston each take on these characters and add the personality necessary to make them worth caring for. McDormand has the toughest job of them all with her role as Jane and absolutely nails this character only in the way she can. As with every Holofcener film, Catherine Keener shows out once again but Jennifer Aniston impressed the most. Even with her being beloved for her TV work, if I were to rank these four in their work as actors, she would probably sit at the bottom. She proves with her performance as Olivia that she can hang with the other three actors.
By the time Friends with Money concludes, some of it feels incomplete but overall it comes together as a well-thought film looking to somewhat sympathize and satirize these mega first-world problems. Nicole Holofcener finds the right balance once again as a director working on her own level and doing her own distinct work. Her soft touch with the direction and the sharp writing allows for the quartet of actors she assembled to flourish in these roles and make this feature something to seek out.