Sunday, April 09, 2006

Money Changes Everything

When Friends with Money begins, you're inclined to sympathize with Olivia, who is the only single member in a group of four women friends, three of whom are rich. Olivia goes from one dead-end career to another (presently, she's a maid) and one dead-end relationship to another. She's so directionless and inert that her friends, when discussing which valuable cause they're giving their money to, joke that they should give it to her. In fact, the only real thing she has going for her is that she's played by Jennifer Aniston. Friends with Money would therefore have you hate Olivia's friends because they are all so self-involved with their own lives, and the seeming glory of having a spouse and a house and kids and money, that they are completely oblivious to how unhappy Olivia is. One of their spouses even says, "She doesn't look unhappy."

Well, one of the great things about this movie is that you come to see that the friends are not ignoring Olivia's predicament at all. Instead, they each have significant problems of their own, from crumbling marriages to anger and resentment. Thus, you have equal sympathy for all four of the women, and the film becomes a true ensemble piece about what defines happiness and success and friendship.

Friends with Money is not a sad movie, but it's about four unhappy women. There are some sharp and keenly observant lines of dialogue, a few good laughs, and there is great acting across the board. You feel real chemistry between these women, even as their lives are drifting apart. Joan Cusack's character even admits at one point that she would likely not be friends with Olivia had they just met now, as opposed to years ago.

The ending is a bit of a convenient cop-out that soils what may have been a really fulfilling plot development, and almost stymies some valuable character development. But aside from that, Friends with Money is a very good movie. I'd highly recomend it, and I'll award it an A–.



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