An interesting take on a world obsessed with status and bank balances, 'Friends with Money' boasts an all-star cast and a beautifully understated script from writer-director Nicole Holofcener (whose previous credits include episodes of 'Sex and the City' and 'Six Feet Under').
It tells the story of three couples and their desperate single friend, who is struggling to accept the hand she has been dealt in life. Christine (Keener) and David (Sharp) have it all - well-behaved young son, beautiful home, nanny - and can afford to work from home as scriptwriters. They both care too much about what the neighbours think - Christine because she wants them to like her and David because he wants to impress them/make them jealous at any cost.
Jane (McDormand) and Aaron (McBurney) care considerably less about impressing other people - what you see is very much what you get. But others seem to be obsessed with their lives nonetheless. Why is Jane so angry? Why has she not noticed that her husband is gay?
Then there are Franny (Cusack) and Matt (Germann), seemingly the happiest of the bunch and also the richest. They can afford personal trainers, but worry about buying proper shoes for their two young children. Well intentioned and generous, they are the normality measuring stick for their group of friends.
Then there's Olivia (Aniston), a self-confessed pot-head and kleptomaniac, who works as a maid, having quit her teaching job after her status became an issue at the posh school where she taught. Falling into destructive relationships, she's lonely and can't get over a married man with whom she had an affair. So she amuses herself with personal trainer Mike (Caan), who gets his kicks from watching her clean other people's homes in a French maid's outfit.
As the story flips between the various homes - linking up their lives every now and then at black-tie events - we get a glimpse of how each of the characters sees the world and their place in it; how obsessed they are with price tags, house extensions and, in Olivia's case, freebies.
Aniston may finally have broken that stereotype mould by being something other than Rachel Green this time around. And, although the film might just be too tame to set the world alight, it does allow her to come into her own as an actress and shed the baggage she has been carrying around from her long-passed sitcom days. Hopefully, better things are to come from her.
McDormand is the scene-stealer here yet again, following on from her Oscar-nominated performance in 'North Country'. She is always convincing as the irritated, world-weary and erratic Jane, who has had someone cut in front of her in one too many queues, sending her right over the edge, with funny consequences. Impressive turns from Keener and Cusack also ensure the ladies completely steal the show from their male counterparts here.
'Friends with Money' will make you think, if only briefly, about how we have come to see the world and indeed those around us in monetary terms. It inspires fleeting pity and self-scrutiny but never delves deep enough to make you feel quite as paranoid as the characters it portrays. That said, they are each very real, very believable and remain engaging throughout.