Friends with Money
by Tony Medley
Men need not apply. While this may seem horribly politically incorrect,
if there has ever been a chick flick in the worst sense of the word,
this is it. The women are smart and articulate. The men are either
dysfunctional, insensitive boors or gay, with one exception. The only
way a man should find himself inside a theater showing this movie is if
he is either trying to elude the police or erroneously thought from the
title that the film was about Gordon Gekko.
Let me be clear, however; there’s nothing wrong with films about women.
I can think of two that I enjoyed immensely, George Cukor’s “Rich and
Famous” (1981) with Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergin, and “The
Turning Point” (1977) with Anne Bancroft and Shirley McLaine. It’s films
about women that are clearly misandristic that give the genre a bad
This perpetuates many of the hoariest myths that feminists constantly
assert, to wit:
If a man has a
confidential friendship with another man, he must be gay;
If a man is
sensitive and has feelings, he must be gay;
If a man is a
good cook and invites another man to cook a meal for him, he must be
They are all hogwash, but they are all in this movie.
Christine (Catherine Keener), Jane (Frances McDormand), and Franny (Joan
Cusack) are the middle-aged, wealthy married ladies who are somehow
great good friends with Olivia (Jennifer Aniston), who is much younger,
single and apparently unable to get a date, or at least a date who knows
something about commitment. Poor Olivia has quit her job as a teacher
and is working as a maid for $65.00 a day. It is never explained how
these three jaded women include in their clique the young Olivia, who
still has her life to live before her. Or why the youthful, beautiful
Olivia would voluntarily imprison herself with three bitter nags.
This is not just a movie about women, it is also about their marriages.
The one thing that all the marriages shown here have in common is that
none displays one iota of affection between spouses. I don’t remember a
hug or a kiss or even many kind words. What is the purpose of these
marriages? Was there ever any love? Was there ever any reason to get
married other than money? If so, what happened? The movie is silent on
these issues. Why did they ever get together? All three seem little more
than poorly-matched roommates. But the idea one gets is that this is an
accurate depiction of the state of matrimony in upper middle class
modern day Los Angeles. Not a pretty picture.
The dialogue is interesting, but it presents a slanted, negative,
one-sided look at its subject. These people are so unsympathetic with
one another if marriages were really like this, there would be no
The lack of
even-handedness in this diatribe by writer/director Nicole Holofcener is
surprisingly disappointing after the terrific job she did with her last
film, “Lovely and Amazing” in 2002. To give Holofcener the benefit of
the doubt, it’s possible that she is not cutting a wide swath here,
indicting all marriages of upper middle class people in
and saying they are all alike. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (1966)
was a brilliant study of a dysfunctional marriage that didn’t intend to
say that all marriages of academics were similar. So maybe Holofcener is
just giving us a picture of three isolated marriages and not drawing any
wider conclusion. That’s possible, but that’s not the way I walked away
from this film believing.
Consistent with my opinion on Holofcener’s intent is the resolution of
the story, which strongly implies that a man is only worth as much as
his net asset value. Forget kindness, compatibility, love, and
affection, if he’s got a bank account, he’s worth nabbing.
March 15, 2006