Friday, April 07, 2006

Jennifer Aniston flashes her comic skills in ‘Friends With Money’

Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener, who launched her moviemaking career with the 1996 relationship comedy, ‘Walking and Talking’, is an independent filmmaker who has carved a successful niche, female ensemble stories.
Her latest variation on girls night out is ‘Friends With Money’, a breezy and likable tale about a group of Los Angeles women whose friendships survive despite the fact they’re at different happiness levels in their lives. Catherine Keener, who’s something of a Holofcener regular, enjoys the film’s best lines as the unhappy side of a husband and wife screenwriting team. The always-engaging Frances McDormand is less successful as a 43-year-old clothes designer having difficulty facing middle age. McDormand portrays anger well, but her sass and bitterness feels misguided except for a blow up scene at an Old Navy store.
The normally reliable Joan Cusack is dramatic wallpaper as the wealthiest of the group. She’s pure backdrop, a letdown considering her talents.
The most famous face in the ‘Friends With Money’ ensemble belongs to former ‘Friends’ sitcom star and current gossip column queen Jennifer Aniston. As Olivia, the lone gal pal without money, Aniston shows an easygoing charm and an ability to generate laughs effortlessly. Olivia is a woman content to clean houses for a living and spend what little money she has on pot. Her friends are perplexed but she’s happy with her slacker situation.
Olivia is at a crossroads, but then so are her friends. She’s the only one admitting to it.
Aniston, who’s shown her indie film credibility before with the Miguel Arteta comedy ‘The Good Girl’, is a gifted comedienne who also happens to be pretty. ‘Friends With Money’ capitalizes on both those attributes and it’s hard to complain with that combination.

— Steve Ramos

Grade: B

Friends With Money premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and opens in New York and Los Angeles April 7. Sony Classics will release it in theaters across America later this spring.

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