An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


                “Friends With Money” is rough going, but it’s not the fault of the movie.  How can it be an unpleasant experience to watch a movie that is acted in close concert by a good cast in a landscape of the closely observed detail of their lives?  Easy.  It’s our culture.  We live collectively in such toxic plenty that those who have it spend their time thinking up ways to spend it, and those who don’t have it still have the luxury of choices.  This movie concentrates on eight of these self-absorbed types, and you may well want to wring their necks.  The fact that they are so irritating is a tribute to the cast and director who wallow in the pleasure of zinging the foibles of their characters. 

                Four women have been close friends since school days; three of them have money; one cleans houses for a living.  Franny (Joan Cusack) inherited a fortune and lives in moneyed bliss with a husband who thinks she can do no wrong.  Jane (Frances McDormand) is married to Aaron (Simon McBurney), a Brit who is the butt of gay jokes invited by his love of shopping, clothes and fabrics.  Christine (Catherine Keener) is in a disintegrating marriage with her screenwriting partner, David (Jason Isaacs), a red blooded turn-of-the-century narcissist.     

Olivia dropped out of a high school teaching job to become a maid.  She is single, lonely, obsessive about an old boy friend, and gets her kicks from exploring the face creams she lifts from her employers and the free samples she wheedles from department stores.   

Nicole Holofeener, who also directed the film, has written snappy one-liners for these good actors.  Rather than writing a story, she has crafted a string of visual jokes that take place within the private lives of the couples and come along with them, like comic baggage, when they assemble as a group. 

Frances McDormand tears into her part.  Jane is a woman whose motivating force is anger (we never learn why).  She is a successful designer, her husband a successful cosmetics CEO, but she enjoys nothing they have achieved as a team.  The fun of watching her lies in knowing that the red hot ball of interior fury will be triggered every few minutes by something – any old thing – that guarantees a good public shouting match with the unfortunates who happen to cross her path. 

                A running joke takes aim at the politics of benefit evenings for good causes.  Deciding what to wear to these social competitions is always the major concern.  Holofeener writes some of her best lines for these people who glide along the surface of their lives tripping over trivialities and jealousies.  They are creatures of our contemporary society, bent on rising to the top without even wondering what the brass ring will look like when they get there.  So don’t blame the actors or the writer; just blame the culture that surrounds us.

Copyright (c) Illusion

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