FRIENDS WITH MONEY written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, with Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, Simon McBurney, Jason Isaacs and Scott Caan. 88 minutes. A Mongrel Media release. Opens Friday (April 14). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Park City, Utah -- Jennifer Aniston looks exactly the same in person as she does on screen, which has the disheartening effect of making Catherine Keener look old.
Stars usually betray a few human imperfections in the flesh, but not Aniston. The worst you can say about her is that her boots might be ever so slightly last winter. As if I know. But confronting live tabloid fodder can bring out the gossip bitch in anybody.
People have flown in from London and Beijing to ask Aniston if she cleans her own toilet. Here at Sundance, the publicists of her new indie film, Friends With Money, have clearly sussed this, so they've gathered Aniston, Keener and their director, Nicole Holofcener, together for informal chats.
So what's it like playing Olivia, a rootless woman with rich friends and no money of her own?
"I was out of work for a long time," Aniston answers. "I was a waitress. We've all been there at some point. I feel very connected to Olivia still. I've had no money. But that's the thing when you don't have it, you're really thrilled with getting 500 bucks a week for waitressing. Then, when you start to make money and you see how much money you can have"."
She trails off. "I was never unhappy with where I was."
But where she is now is in an unspeakable tax bracket, so it must feel odd to make low-budget indie films.
"There are a lot of differences," she admits. "The money. It feels more like camp. I don't know how to explain it."
"Well, it's so fast," Holofcener jumps in.
"It's so fast," Aniston picks up, "and it's so much more enjoyable because you don't lull, you get to keep acting."
"Did you enjoy shooting all those scenes in my relatives' home?" Holofcener asks her.
"I did! Our dressing room was the downstairs bathroom. I loved it. Keener and I changed in the same room."
It sounds like they had a ball, which can almost make you forget that Friends With Money is filled with bleak observations about frustrated people. Anger is the running theme.
"It's not a theme for me," Holofcener protests. "It's such a part of life. We're all angry. And anger, it's so funny."
"But in Nicole's world, anger isn't a bad thing," Keener adds. "There's a stigma about the angry woman. Nicole's a person who uses the word "anger' with love. It's actually made me more comfortable with that thought in my life. It doesn't go hand in hand with behaviour that's..."
"Ladylike," Aniston suggests.
"Ladylike or proper," Keener agrees. "But who the hell in the world right now isn't..."
"In a rage," says Holofcener.
"Raging!" says Keener. "With good reason."
Which brings us to toilets. A journalist begins, "In the film, you had to clean the toilet...."
"That was actually not her," Holofcener deadpans.
But as the room starts cooking up an "Aniston forces body double to scrub loo" headline, Holofcener jumps in. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding! That was her."
"Can you imagine?" Aniston asks. "I don't clean toilets."
One reporter won't let it go. "But do you like cleaning?"
"I do," she insists. "I make my bed every day, and I clean my kitchen. I have a housekeeper," she admits.
Keener breaks in.
"Do you urinate?"
"I still do that, yeah."
"Number one and number two," Holofcener adds.
"I know that may shock you," says Aniston, "but I still do."
FRIENDS WITH MONEY (Nicole Holofcener) Rating: NNN
Friends With Money sets down within a circle of Los Angeles pals who are all coupled up and wealthy, except for Jennifer Aniston's character, Olivia. She's a pot-smoking underachiever who gave up her teaching job to work as a maid. As the couples scratch and tear at their marriages, Olivia falls in with a creep (Scott Caan).
This is really Friends With Suppressed Anger Issues. As such, it's pretty good, and the female side of the cast is flawless. Catherine Keener oscillates reliably, Joan Cusack is hilarious, and Frances McDormand is dead-on as a woman who acts like the world is out to piss her off.
Not a memorable film, but a perfect mood piece for a foul day.