Tuesday, 22 May 2007

DVD: Friends with Money

Lowdown: In case you didn't know it, money does not solve all your problems or make you a better woman.
On paper, Friends with Money should be a boring chicks' flick drama. On DVD, however, this short 80 minutes film is indeed a drama, but it's also witty, often funny, and overall a pleasure to watch.
The premises are fairly simple. The film follows four different women, all but one of them happily married (with the notable exception being Jeniffer Aniston) and all but the same one quite well off financially. Ansiton, however, is all over the place: we're told that she quit her job as a teacher, she stalks a married guy she once had a one night stand with, she now works as a maid for a living, and she uses the vibrators she finds in the houses she's cleaning up. Unlike Aniston, her friends (Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, and Frances McDormand) live the ideal life: aside of having husbands and money, they have enviable jobs (e.g., fashion designer, writer), and their lifestyles allow them to buy $10,000 dinner tables at charities.
But are they really happy? As the film progresses, we see that that's not really the case. Keener, for example, starts the film designing a second floor for their house in order to be able to see the sea, but as the construction unfolds she finds her neighbors dislike her for ruining everybody else's view. McDormand, by far the best performer in the film, falls into a crisis of her own when she loses the urge to wash her hair, finds out that the parents of her child's friend have no idea their child spends time at her place, has that same parent cut her off and steal her parking space, and finally goes berserk when someone overtakes her at a shop's checkout.
The plot thickens but the messages are pretty much the same: Having money does not make you a better than those who have less, and generally speaking money will not solve your problems. What will solve your problems, according to the film, is making an effort with the small things that each one of us does each and every minute - small things that when added up can truly make the world a better place for everyone. And who can argue with that? It's about time a film comes out and says things the way they are, even if what it says contradicts the agenda of the Australian Liberal party.
So we have ourselves a short film with some variety of acting quality on display (Aniston -> annoying, McDormand -> wow!) and some interesting things to say which are said in a pretty simple yet clever way. Technically, this is a very calm film with not much happening in it; it's not your average special effects laden action adventure, and so in order to liven things up the director resorts to using a hand held camera a lot. Note I'm mentioning that mainly because I hate it: makes me feel seasick.
Best scene: There are numerous contenders, but the scene in which McDormand loses it after someone overtakes her to the supermarket till is probably the best. Best both at the performance level as well as in directing the viewer to pay attention to the things that make the world better or worse.
Picture quality: Very good, with only a slight lack of detail. Makes sense when you think about it: the DVD is devoid of any special features, the film is short, and together with its calm nature this means there is not much of a need to be heavy on digital compression.
Sound quality: Pretty subtle with some sound effects thrown all over that don't add much to the viewing experience but can distract you if you pay them too much attention.
Overall: I'll allow myself to be generous to this film since I really liked it. A 4 out of 5 stars hidden gem.

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