Release Date:  April 21, 2006
Rating:  R (for language, sexual content and brief drug use)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  88 min.
Director:  Nicole Holofcener
Actors:  Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Cass Asher, Simon McBurney and Scott Caan

When I watched Nicole Kidman's Oscar-winning turn in The Hours back in 2002, I'd officially witnessed the most vacant, depressing and seemingly never-ending flick for which I ever shelled out eight bucks. Now, minus the money spent for admission, I've seen a movie that doesn't rank far behind. And it's a shame, really, because it's a waste of a stellar female cast.

In what could have been an interesting premise if better executed, Friends With Money is essentially the story of four women - three who are married and rather well off financially and the oddball who's single, a pothead and works as a maid. Of course, given their wealthy status and sympathy for Olivia's (Jennifer Aniston) sad state of affairs (after all, she used to be a teacher at a rich kids' school before the students threw quarters at her and made fun of her rather lackluster Honda in a sea of BMWs), her friends want to help but aren't sure if it's better to lend her money, hire her to clean their houses or simply offer a sympathetic ear.

Meanwhile, these women have troubles of their own. Franny (Joan Cusack) can't decide to what charity she should give her extra millions. Then there's Christine (Catherine Keener) who is a successful screenwriter along with her husband, David (Jason Isaacs). They can't stop fighting and think that, perhaps, building an addition to their already humongous home might bring some relief to their crumbling marriage. And then there's Jane (Frances McDormand) a frazzled fashion designer who's so distraught with life that she's forgotten to shampoo her hair for weeks and freaks out so dramatically when a couple cuts in line in front of her at Old Navy that she ends up crashing through the store's front glass windows. There's also the small matter of Jane's rather effeminate husband, Aaron, who may or may not be gay - a subject her friends debate behind her back the entire movie.

Presumably, what the audience is supposed to learn as a result of all these conversations we eavesdrop on at the dinner table and as the girls gossip with their significant others later on, is that middle-aged life has its challenges - with or without money. Wow, that's surprising; now did it really take 88 minutes to make that point? Ultimately, a better conclusion would've been the very non-Hollywood theme that a selfish perspective on life can't help but lead to emptiness and internal conflict. But I digress.

On a positive note, the actresses' performances, especially McDormand and Keener, are emotion-packed and convincing, even with the rather lackluster script. Aniston, however, doesn't fare as well, save for a few moments of comic relief she provides on a first date with Franny's loser personal trainer (the very funny Scott Caan as the kind of guy you'd steer your single friends away from dating). The trouble with Aniston isn't her acting, but more with the character she's playing. Since most people know the former Mrs. Brad Pitt is a multi-millionaire in real life, it's a little hard to buy the fact that she's cleaning someone else's toilets and greedily stocking up on free samples of face cream from the local Bloomingdales when you know full well she can stock up on pricey Le Mer anytime she runs out.

But even if they'd cast someone other than Aniston as Olivia, the overall result probably wouldn't have been much better. In the end, you can't help but feel drained after hearing these women drone on and on about the most self-centered subjects, while the deeper issues (like Christine's troubled marriage or even Olivia's pot habit and tendency to constantly phone and hang up on a married man she had a brief fling with) are glossed over like the trivial problems presented in your average sitcom. But instead of 30 minutes (with commercials included), you've been sitting for almost an hour and a half without any better resolution as the credits roll.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Olivia is described as a "pothead." She's shown smoking marijuana in a couple of different scenes in the film.
  • Language/Profanity:  There's plenty of rough language throughout including several uses of the "f" word and incidents of the Lord's name taken in vain.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Olivia borrows a client's vibrator while cleaning her house. Franny and her husband Matt mess around in bed, although nothing is shown. Olivia and her boyfriend have sex, but nothing gratuitous is shown. There's also plenty of discussion about these women's sex lives - or lack thereof in some cases - in dinner conversation.
  • Violence:  None.