The ultimate American taboo doesn’t involve sex

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Some people seem to be ready to talk about their sex lives at the drop of a hat, but when was the last time you were at a social gathering where people discussed their own finances?

How many of us know the salaries of our best friends?

Or what their credit card balances might be?

These are questions that just aren’t asked in polite society, even in the proudly capitalist nation of America.

The 2006 Nicole Holofcener movie, “Friends with Money,” is about a tight circle of well-heeled female friends who start to come unglued when one of their number appears to be spiraling downward — she’s not hooked on drugs or sex, she is simply free-falling in terms of earnings and lifestyle.

The 40ish friends played by Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack worry about the seeming aimlessness of pal Jennifer Aniston, but we can see that they might be more anxious about the Southern California affluence all around them and their own unfulfilled personal lives.

Holofcener (top left, with Keener) has only written and directed three features since “Walking and Talking” debuted in 1996 — she just finished a fifth picture — demonstrating that even her type of small-scale, character-driven stories are hellishly difficult to finance in this era of action pictures and franchise blockbusters that can be screened all over the world with nothing lost in translation.

The filmmaker has forged a fabulous alliance with Catherine Keener, who has been in all five of the films, starting with her fine work in “Walking and Talking,” as a young woman who feels abandoned by her best friend (Anne Heche) who has just gotten engaged.

Holofcener and Keener have created a valuable record of the concerns and lifestyles of middle and upper-middle class women in the ’90s and ’00s that is as funny as “Sex and the City” but a tad more grounded in reality (based on her success with the Manhattan-centric “Walking and Talking,” however, the filmmaker was hired to direct four episodes of “SATC” during the first two seasons of the HBO hit).

Holofcener hasn’t received anything like the attention she deserves, but she has crafted one of the most original and entertaining bodies of work in modern movies.

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Joe Meyers

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