Friends with Money: the gay, downer chick-flick
J. Gordon
6/4/2006 3:41:45 PM

“How gay do I look?” is what my husband said when I invited him along to see Friends with Money. OK, so a movie with the cast of Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener and Jennifer Aniston (well, maybe not Jennifer Aniston) is certainly gonna be a ‘chick flick’—but it ought to be at least pretty good one, right? Friends with Money, while doing some interesting things with character, is overloaded in pain, pathos, and a slow pace to nowhere. Oh, and there are a few gay themes being batted around.

Maybe it was the intent of the director, Nicole Holofcener, but in keeping with the storyline of this film, all the women (especially Keener, known for her cool good looks, and Aniston, one of the sexiest women in Hollywood today), look too thin, haggard and really, pretty unattractive. We’ll accept less than glamour for McDormand’s Jane, a fashion designer going through a major depression and refusing to wash her hair. But the rest of them? Naaaah.

The only actor who really stretches beyond anything we’ve seen before is the one we’d least expect to be able to pull it off: that’s the made-for-TV-star Jennifer Aniston, who plays Olivia, the pot-smoking, 30-something with no self-esteem and a string of bad men, whose given up her teaching job to become a maid. Her well-to-do girlfriends rally around her, setting her up on disastrous blind dates, loaning her money, and focusing on her troubles to avoid looking at their own bad marriages and unfilled circumstances. The male characters, Jane’s husband Aaron (Simon McBurney) and his friend, also named Aaron (Ty Burrell), are perhaps the most interesting; metro-sexual, married men whom everyone presumes are gay. Particularly touching is the scene with McBurney tucking his son into bed--the loving father we all wish we had. Maybe straight men

Then, there’s Scott Caan who plays Mike, the vile personal trainer who insults and degrades Aniston in so many ways that it makes your head spin. Watching her continue to put up with him is beyond excruciating. Almost as bad (but not as well-developed of a story line) is the crumbling marriage between the successful screenwriter couple of Keener and Jason Isaacs, who plays her handsome, selfish husband David. Interestingly, the happiest couple are the wealthy millionaires Franny (Joan Cusack) and Matt (Greg Germann), who share intimate conversation about their friends and debate who to leave their millions to as they exchange foot rubs and warm gestures of affection between fundraising banquets.

Ultimately, though, Friends with Money leaves much unresolved and by the end of its 88 minutes, only Aniston’s character has really made any serious progress—which is unfortunately circumstantial and not from any real accomplishment or personal growth.

Friends with Money might be worth seeing with a girl-pal at home on DVD when there’s nothing else to do, if only just to make you think and maybe feel better about your own life’s circumstances. Just don’t bring your husband—unless he’s gay.


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