Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Friends With Money

2006 Sundance Film Festival
★ ★ ★
I don’t know if Jennifer Anniston can give a bad performance. Coming off of Friends I never would have guessed it, but she has such charming vulnerability, almost a Mary Tyler Moore for our generation, that every character she portrays I find interesting.

With a tongue-in-cheek allusion in the title, Friends with Money is a study in contradictions. It’s a comedy with moments of uncomfortable intensity. It’s a social commentary that feels vaguely insightful while flaunting political correctness (the wealthy couple turns out to be the happiest and most well-adjuste). It’s an ensemble piece that clearly features Anniston in another successful and intriguing role.

This is a well-respected cast, mainly four couples linked by the friendship of the women, including Joan Cusack, Greg Germann, Catherine Keener, Francis McDormand and Simon McBurney. Cusack departs from her more usual comedic role, leaving the plum scenes to Anniston, who is so deadpan, and so pathetic, that she becomes completely endearing.

There are plenty of reasons to reject this film. It’s dialogue driven, with barely enough plot to move from scene to scene. It feels like it’s written for women, and maybe inaccessible to some men. And we never really get to know the characters well enough, only through intimate introduction to some of their problems.

But if you watch it like a conversation between friends you will likely find something familiar here. Along with the grins, and Jennifer Anniston, that makes Friends with Money worth the trip.


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