Aniston of the week: Friends with Money

After the horror of last weeks’ Horrible Bosses, rather than dive right back into that misogynistic pit for the sequel, we look back to one of those ‘serious’ roles where Aniston shows that less is more. Aniston is also in very good company, among a solid cast who all underplay in order to hold up the film’s weighty, worthy theme.

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Aniston as Olivia

FILM: Friends with Money
DIRECTOR: Nicole Holofcener
YEAR: 2006
CHARACTER NAME AND PROFESSION: Olivia, Maid/Housekeeper
PLOT SUMMARY: Three couples are friends with Olivia, they are all wealthy, she is not. Christine (Catherine Keener) and David (Jason Isaacs) are screenwriters who work together, have one son and are having an extension built on the top of their house that will allow them to see the ocean. Franny (Joan Cusack) is a full time mother (with full time help), married to Matt (Greg Germann) who is a doctor (I think). Jane (Frances McDormand) is a fashion designer married to Aaron (Simon McBurney), who owns an organic ‘LUSH’ type cleansing product company, they have one son. Olivia (Aniston) used to teach at a very fancy private prep school, but she left because it was ‘unbearable’ – the children teased her because they perceived her as poor. She now works as a housekeeper/maid and Franny, in particular wants to fix her. She starts dating Franny’s trainer Matt (Scott Caan) who treats her very badly.

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L-R: Joan Cusack as Franny, Catherine Keener as Christine, Jennifer Aniston as Olivia, Frances McDormand as Jane.

CHARACTER TRAITS: Low self-esteem, kind, depressed, thoughtful.
NOTES ON PERFORMANCE: Aniston really holds back here and is very convincing. Olivia is the kind of person with enough self-worth to remove herself from a bad work situation (the fancy school), but not enough to stop pining for her married ex-lover, or be defiant against the awful Mike, who insists on splitting her earnings when he accompanies her to jobs, despite sleeping with her and cleaning a couple of shelves. Aniston moves through each scene as though not actually present, and it’s only really when she’s calling her ex that we see a spark of energy. It works, because the film is leading to a set-up that requires us to believe she’ll start a relationship with someone who has ‘people problems’ just like her.

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Ain’t no snooty store clerk gonna deny Christine her sample!

NOTES ON FILM: Writer/Director Holofcener (Enough Said, 2013) here is pretty broad in her judgement of the wealthy versus the poor, with Franny wondering aloud whether she’d be friends with Olivia if they met now – we’ve been wondering the same thing. They’re all oblivious and Olivia’s acceptance of them is explained by her passiveness generally. There are some nice details here, such as Olivia’s gathering of sample creams, which demonstrate that she’s still aiming thriftily at the luxury she used to enjoy unimpeded. Her last act union with Marty (Bob Stephenson) isn’t wholly convincing, due to their lack of chemistry, but it’s almost believable that these two people’s combined issues would lead them to each other. It’s also worth noting that Frances McDormand is excellent, as ever.
CONCLUSION: A low-key, commendably reserved performance in a half-interesting film.

 

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