Friends With Money was a film that I ducked for a little while. Didn’t hear much about it and I couldn’t really get in the mood to see it — largely because I didn’t know what it was, outside of the poster. I hadn’t seen the trailer and put it in my Netflix queue on the strength of the cast. I’m happy to report that this is a well-written, unique and interesting story that is well acted and gets its message across without over dramatizing.
The film stars Jennifer Aniston as the sole “poor girl” who somehow has found herself in a circle of friends with three affluent couples who all seem to pity her as much as they love her. The couples are notably wealthy and on the surface appear to be doing pretty well. But one look into their conversations about each other on their car ride home from a dinner gathering gives us insight that perhaps all that glitters truly isn’t gold. Frances McDormand is a middle aged fashion designer who appears to be married to the prototype for “the heterosexual husband who has very effeminate mannerisms”. Simon McBurney plays her husband Aaron and both do an incredible job — especially Frances. The Cusack family must have decided that they want to hold the record for “most appearances in a romantic comedy” as Joan Cusack makes yet another appearance in one of these films. It’s certainly not a knock against her, as she always delivers and it’s no different here. Rounding out the incredible cast are Jason Isaacs and Catherine Keener.
As great as the performances are in Friends With Money, I most enjoyed getting into the story and the characters. Each couple is able to hit the nail on the head when describing the other couple’s problems. Similarly they manage to completely ignore their own — for awhile. Jennifer Aniston, forever the “victim” in these movies, is actually easy to identify with here. Unlike her friends, she isn’t a famous writer or designer and has to work for a living. She’s trying out different careers to see where she might find happiness and after a stint as a teacher, we meet her in this film as a “house-call maid”. The role seems to bother her friends, although strangely they don’t make much of an effort to help her. There’s a lot that can be extracted by watching this film. Do the couples prefer to keep Jennifer in their presence as a reminder that as bad as their lives are, perhaps there are far worse things that life can bring? Or maybe there’s a social message here: “if we help her become affluent, then we no longer are unique.” Perhaps that’s digging a little too deep into the story. Regardless of how you interpret it, this is certainly an enjoyable experience.
One refreshing quality of this film is that it’s only 88 minutes. In this day and age of the “two hour minimum” film, Friends shows that it doesn’t take a long time to say a something profound. Although many will discard this as just another romantic comedy, I must say without any spoilers that the ending is truly inspiring. It’s not overly dramatic and the film doesn’t end with all of our conflicts being resolved. However, like any good film, we can probably finish the line that the director has drawn on our own.
I’ve always heard people say that “money can’t buy happiness” and while I never believed that and probably still don’t. (Usually the people who are quick to quote the phrase have never truly been poor or homeless.) I understand that a better interpretation of the quote reflects the fact that “the ability to secure material wealth through currency won’t help you in your quest to find the things in life that are most important — a loving spouse, a good child, good health, spiritual success, etc.” This film does the most convincing job of illustrating this and in a very short amount of time. There’s a rich experience here. They aren’t really cranking these movies out as much as they were in the 90s. This is a good one. Check it out.