Friends With Money feels about as mainstream as any film I’ve written about so far. It plays like a conventional, big budget Hollywood movie with big name stars, very smooth and professional in all the subtle ways I couldn’t even articulate that give that kind of movie such a different feel from that of the typical indie. There is nothing intentionally obscure about it, and it has a decent pacing and works in some pretty good humor. It raises some issues worth thinking about, but on the whole it’s not a movie I felt took any significant effort to watch.
It likely would be classified as a “chick flick,” taking it even farther from the typical movie I would choose.
One thing I was conscious of almost the whole time I was watching it is that I had a visceral dislike for the main characters (which is not the same as saying that I had a dislike for the movie itself). And that’s as much a reaction to the superficialities and stylistic stuff as it is to their values and who they seem to be as human beings at a deeper level (though it’s both).
I’m guessing it’s kind of a Sex and the City style–guessing because I’ve never seen that show–but it’s a lot of gossiping and being catty and talking about sex and obsessing on money and materialistic stuff, and just a way of thinking and communicating and socializing that pushes certain buttons in me. There’s a kind of posturing and phoniness and conformity to it that I find unpleasant.
On the one hand, it struck me as quite realistic. This is how people–especially women–are. (Well, middle class and above urban white people anyway.) They really do have these priorities, and talk about this petty shit, and spend this much time in these affected postures.
But on the other hand, when I think about it, I really haven’t seen all that much of this kind of social behavior in my life, which is maybe why it’s jarring and unpleasant to me. Granted, I spend more time alone than the average person, so maybe I’m not around people like this very much because I’m not around people period very much. But I do have some human contact after all, and probably the majority of the people I’ve been friends with in my life are at least moderately conventional (which is surprising in itself, but let’s not get off on that tangent), yet it’s striking how infrequently I’m around people acting like this.
Maybe it’s partly an “observer effect” phenomenon. If I’m on a date, or I’m socializing with a small group of people or whatever, perhaps they’re a lot less likely to be in this mode than they would be if you replace me with a regular person. I talk about different things, I’m receptive to different things, I react differently to certain stimuli, etc., so presumably people behave at least subtly differently when they interact with me.
So, I don’t know. I think there are a lot of people like the people in this movie–that is, I would imagine many people, women especially, could watch this movie and chuckle in recognition (“Oh, they’re so much like me and my friends!”)–but I’m not real sure.
Anyway, the one character I mostly did not react negatively to–though she sometimes has that same style as the others–is the Jennifer Aniston character. It’s interesting, because there are certainly things about her that are less than ideal or that just are things that are not fully compatible with me and my values or lifestyle. But just as the others are complex people with plenty of good and bad qualities that I felt a certain aversion to, she is a complex person with plenty of good and bad qualities that I felt a real affinity for. Somehow in her case the flaws seem like things I could put up with, and overall she just seems like someone I’d want to sit and talk to for hours and get inside. There’s something genuinely good about her. It’s like the ways she’s screwed up wouldn’t affect the fact that she’d be an awesome friend or girlfriend.
One of her flaws is clearly her choices of male companionship, though I certainly approved of her (utterly unrealistic, by the way) choice late in the film. (I didn’t much care for the plot twist at the very end concerning her and that final guy though. I didn’t see any particular reason for it to be there.)
The main thing I was intrigued by about her (no doubt because I could see so much similarity with me) is that she’s broke and not conventionally “successful” for reasons that sort of stem from principle, but seem to be at least as much a matter of finding the means to such success personally distasteful. So is she some sort of martyr whose suffering is a result of her admirably refusing to compromise, or is she simply a loser? Or some combination of the two?
In any case–and I liked this as well–she’s never self-righteous about any of it. Due to her being broke and all of her friends being far from it (again, see my life), there does sometimes arise a certain awkwardness or low level conflict, but if her friends are guilt tripped about it at all, it’s from her example and not from her explicitly getting in their face about it and calling them out for making choices she wouldn’t be comfortable with. Indeed, she’s quite humble about it; her self-perception seems closer to the loser end of the scale than the principled martyr end (though–and maybe this isn’t there and I’m just seeing what I want to see–I still get the feeling that she senses, albeit in a vague and uncertain way, that there’s just something fundamentally wrong with how conventional people accept the petty indignities and compromises to get where they are, and that she’d lose a very valuable part of herself if she joined them).
I’m not going to say Friends With Money was a big favorite of mine, but there was enough in it to think about and care about that I clearly liked it more than not.
(And yes, if you must know I did rewind the scene with Jennifer Aniston in a skimpy little maid’s outfit so I could have a second go at it. I enjoyed it significantly both times.)