It's a tribute to writer-director Nicole Holofcener that she can take characters with various levels of emotional instability, submit them to vaguely whimsical episodes that are also vaguely depressing, and still turn the clever trick of leaving her audience feeling sunny and upbeat. Such is the case in Friends With Money, as Holofcener gathers a quartet of actresses with natural chemistry (Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, and Joan Cusack) and provides a 90-minute window into the lives of the characters they play. Because it's not a lot more than that, the film fits well into Holofcener's body of work, which has taken something of a drive-by approach to examining contemporary women involved in a crisis of self-worth, both within and outside their romantic relationships. She reaches no conclusions almost by design, resolving some story threads, and leaving others flapping in the wind. Friends With Money may leave that impression to an even greater extent than Walking and Talking and Lovely & Amazing, as Holofcener bungles the ending, abruptly rolling the credits right at a moment of melancholy catharsis, when the pacing suggests there should be a scene or two more. But until then it's quite light on its feet, absurd in the way real life is absurd, and always believable. Aniston's character embodies Holofcener's themes most literally, having quit teaching when she grew tired of her spoiled rich students financially humiliating her, then watching as even the value of her maid service is bartered and subdivided by two different men. But one of those conclusions Holofcener refuses to reach is that men are at fault for the problems of these women, who are plenty good at making their own trouble. Friends With Money is a minor relationship dramedy whose everyday smallness of scope is its entire point.
by Derek Armstrong review