Friends with Money

I took yesterday as a day off, the first Friday I'd been able to avoid the office for a long while. My gf and I took the dogs to the dog park, went out to lunch, and even made it to the movies, where we saw Friends with Money, the new film from Nicole Holofcener, who previously did Walking & Talking and Lovely and Amazing. Since character-driven ensemble dramas are among my favorite types of film, and this one includes Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, and Joan Cusack in it, I had high expectations and they were all satisfied. The film focuses on four 40ish women friends in LA, and their assorted husbands, careers, children, boyfriends, etc. It's not a comedy, though there are some humorous moments -- it's really more of a character piece. There are bittersweet moments, angry moments, sad and funny parts. I suppose it's part of the whole "40 is the new 30" thing (someone I know actually heard someone say that recently) so that 40-somethings can now in our culture be portrayed as trying to figure out their lives in the way that 15 years ago it was the 30somethings. If you have husband and house and money but you're still not happy, what do you do? If you don't have those things, does it mean you're not going ever to be happy? How do you balance individual happiness against the larger issues in the world -- in your family, your neighborhood, your city, the planet? Each of the women has a different approach to these questions.

One of the truest things in the movie I thought was how we often use other people's lives as a distraction from our own, or as a way to make ourselves feel better. So one couple are having a conversation about depression that isn't really going anywhere -- and then they'll say "well what about Christine? can you believe that...". The film neatly shows us this happening and, I think, offers the viewers the chance to self-reflect a little bit, to consider how we ourselves are inevitably using the characters in the film as emotional or social yardsticks (well, I'd never be as rude as that; my partner is better than hers; but I'm not as succesful as she is). It's entertaining but substantive as well. The reasons why I like this movie are sort of the same reasons I like reading so-called "personal" blogs -- glimpses into other lives that help you understand better the whole messy picture of being human.