Friends With Money Written By: Nicole Holofcener Directed By: Nicole Holofcener US Theatrical Premiere: April 7, 2006 (Sony Pictures Classics) US DVD Release: August 29, 2006 Running Time: 1:27:46 (29 Chapter Stops) Rating: R (For Language, Some Sexual Content and Brief Drug Use) Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic & 1.33:1 non-anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic) Audio: English DD5.1, French DD2.0 (Extra Features: English DD2.0) Subtitles: English, French (Extra Features: None) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None) Menus: Some brief and background animation. Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert features cover images from other Sony Pictures Classics titles. MSRP: $28.95 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 4/5 Friends With Money is a film by chicks, of chicks, and (judging from the marketing) for chicks. And I really enjoyed it. It’s an intelligent, witty tale of three-dimensional characters that carefully avoids clichés while keeping things believable. Four friends are facing four different mid-life crises. Three of them are married; one is single. Three of them have money; one does not. You’re probably thinking “the poor single girl is jealous of her rich, married friends, but discovers that they really aren’t as happy as they seem and learns to appreciate her life, right?” Well, no. Thankfully, writer/ director Nicole Holofcener is a bit more creative than that. Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) is the youngest of the group, and the only one not enjoying comfortable finances. A former schoolteacher, she ekes out a living cleaning houses with no apparent ambition beyond that. She isn’t committed to a relationship either, bouncing from one lousy boyfriend to the next. She often dials an old flame (now married) and hangs up, but it seems to be more out of habit than due to any actual remaining feelings. Franny (Joan Cusack) is sans career as well, but she’s independently wealthy (to put it mildly). Her kooky husband Matt (Greg Germann) is open and honest, and their biggest disagreements are over the shoes they buy for their children. Even that isn’t much of a concern, as money is no issue for them. Christine (Catherine Keener) is a screenwriter who writes with her spouse David (Jason Isaacs). Theirs appears to be the shakiest relationship, as they rarely even notice each other (or anyone else, for that matter) except when they’re fighting. Christine, at least, pays attention to their young son, which is more than can be said for David. Rounding out the crew is dress designer Jane (Frances McDormand), in a state of perimenopause that amplifies every bit of stress in her life – she can’t seem to let anything go. She knows that her life is good, but every day brings self-induced struggle. Her son appears to be happy, while her husband, Aaron (Simon McBurney), provides some of the best comic moments thanks to a fashion sense that may or may not go beyond (way beyond) mere metrosexuality. The women chat and gossip in various pairings and all together. They are very open with one another, providing windows into their true feelings. Each woman’s happiness is clearly related to her own actions more than to her family or life situation (although there does seem to be a bit of an inverse correlation between the, shall we say, manliness of the fella in a relationship and his honey’s joy level). The only male character who really gets his own scenes is Aaron, who seems to confuse the gaydar of everyone around him – at least until he meets his apparent doppelganger. The film follows these four friends and their families over a brief period of time – long enough for them to experience some changes, but don’t expect every theme to be wrapped up neatly by the time the credits roll. It’s a slice-of-life piece that offers just enough resolution to feel like a complete story. And while it never quite reaches great heights of comedy, it does feature a steady stream of good chuckles. As a whole, it’s very funny. THE WAY I SEE IT: 2.5/5 The picture quality is mostly OK, but unfortunately rather inconsistent. Some scenes look pretty nice, while others are plagued with digital noise. Close examination also reveals a bit of print damage, which is always a shame for a brand-new film. Colors are good, with realistic skin tones and decent blacks. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 3.5/5 While dialogue of course takes center stage, the mix includes a nice amount of activity in the other channels when appropriate. The relatively sparse score makes good use of multiple channels as well. THE SWAG: 1.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Commentary With Director Nicole Holofcener and Producer Anthony Bregman The commentary starts out with a number of relatively uninteresting anecdotes, but it gets better as it goes along, with Holofcener and Bregman talking more about the development of the story and the post-production. Behind The Scenes of Friends With Money (11:21) Essentially an EPK piece, with comments from cast and crew. There is some actual behind-the-scenes footage, but there are also way too many clips from the film. The most interesting part is Frances McDormand talking about how her character is going through perimenopause, which explains her overly high-strung behavior. Los Angeles Premiere (3:48) Some random footage from the film’s premiere at Grauman’s Egyptian Theater. About half of it consists of director Holofcener onstage thanking various people (and bearing a striking resemblance to musician Geddy Lee). Not terribly exciting. Sundance Featurette (4:42) Pretty much the same idea as the last featurette, with footage from Sundance. There’s a bit more actual talk about the film (including EPK interview clips), but it’s still not all that interesting. (Holofcener doesn’t really have the Geddy vibe going on here though.) Trailers The trailers for Marie Antoinette, Sketches of Frank Gehry, and Volver play automatically when the disc is inserted. They may be skipped. Marie Antoinette (1:46) (DD5.1; 1.85:1 anamorphic) The Holiday (2:32) (DD5.1; 1.85:1 anamorphic) The Quiet (2:02) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic) American Hardcore (1:55) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 non-anamorphic) House Of Sand (2:00) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 non-anamorphic) Quinceanera (1:56) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) Volver (1:41) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic) Sketches of Frank Gehry (1:58) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Don’t Come Knocking (1:50) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic) Art School Confidential (1:44) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) Who Killed The Electric Car? (2:17) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic) SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 4/5 The Way I See It: 2.5/5 The Way I Hear It: 3.5/5 The Swag: 1.5/5 Guys, rejoice – here’s a flick you can use to score major points with your lady and enjoy it just as much (well, maybe almost as much!) as she will. It’s clever and funny, with an ensemble of likeable characters whose strengths and flaws ground them solidly in realism. For the most part, the disc is just OK, although the audio is nice and the commentary is worth a listen. A better-than-average presentation would have garnered this excellent little film my all-too-rare RECOMMENDED label.