Friends with Money 2006 United States, Nicole Holofcener.
Friends with Money is not the quirky, upbeat comedy that its trailer seemed to promise. Instead, it's about the role that money plays in our American lives and in our American dreams. There are laughs, to be sure, and the film has a nominally "happy" ending, but director Nicole Holofcener's uncompromisingly stern look at modern life is unlikely to put a bounce in your step as you leave the theater.
Like last year's Nine Lives, Friends with Money has been rightly praised for showcasing the talents of its cast of older women. It's impossible to overstate what a boon it is to see such consummate professionals as Joan Cusack (Franny), Catherine Keener (Christine), Frances McDormand (Jane), and even Jennifer Aniston (Olivier) plying their trade in satisfying, nuanced leading roles, all in the same film.
It begins with these old friends at dinner along with their husbands (only Olivia is unmarried). As the film unfolds in an episodic chain of loosely connected almost-vignettes it becomes apparent that these women define their relationships with each another based on their perceptions of their relative wealth and happiness. This in turn plays a substantial role in the way each sees herself.
By the end of the film the balance is slightly altered--when they meet once more for dinner Olivia is no longer single and one of the other women is--but there's been no significant character development. Without resorting to histrionics, Holofcener has laid bare the room merely by rearranging the furniture.
These characters employ an elaborate calculus of envy and condescension to gauge their friendship, but life doesn't lend itself so easily to quantification. We are constantly changing and our relationships evolve apace. "Wealth" and "happiness" are just words and any consideration of ourselves, and more especially of our relation to others, that depends on their estimation is doomed to fallaciousness. In Friends with Money, as in reality, the signs of life- and relationship-altering shifts are writ small in subtle changes.