Friends with Money (15)

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The Independent Culture

Friends with Money is Desperate Housewives with the make-up scraped off. There are no fugitives chained up in basements or bodies buried under swimming pools, but there are four female friends who aren't sure, with middle-age looming, if their lives are everything they should have been. Catherine Keener co-writes screenplays with her husband, but can hardly bear to live with him any more, let alone collaborate with him. Joan Cusack and her husband have so much money that they literally don't know what to do with it. Frances McDormand is prone to furious outbursts at anyone who steals her parking space. And Jennifer Aniston, having quit her teaching job, works as a maid when she's not stalking a married ex-boyfriend.

It's written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, the maker of two other low-key comedy-dramas, Walking and Talking and Lovely and Amazing. Both of them were irritatingly saccharine and smug, so it's a relief to report that Holofcener has sharpened her insights to a jagged edge for Friends with Money. She's perceptive about how strained a friendship or a marriage can get, but she's just as astute about its tender and intimate moments. She's funny, too. And if there's not much plot to speak of, you can always watch Desperate Housewives for that.