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Posts Tagged ‘frances mcdormand’

friends_with_money_ver5_xlgThis 2008 film is marketed as a comedy/drama/romance, and I’m not really sure that it falls into any of those categories (well, maybe drama). I enjoyed it a lot though, in no small part due to the excellent cast.

Jennifer Aniston is Olivia, the only one of her group of friends who actually doesn’t have money -and who, having left her job as a teacher (for reasons that remain unspecified) is now working as a maid and struggling to make ends meet. She is also the only member of her group who is unmarried, although the marriages of her three best friends range from happy to hateful. There are successful co-authors Christine and David (Catherine Keener and Jason Isaacs) who not only no longer love each other, but don’t seem to even like each other. Their conversations are filed with hate and vicious barbs at each other. Then there is clothing designer Jane and body care entrepeneur Aaron (Frances McDormand and Simon McBurney) who seem generally happy with each other, although Jane is starting to feel old and angry at the world, and almost everyone Aaron encounters thinks that he is gay, and indeed this includes the viewer – well this viewer anyway. Finally there is stay at home wife Franny (who doesn’t need to work because she has a huge trust fund) and accountant Matt (Joan Cusack and Greg Germann) who do actually seem to love each other and have a happy marriage.

The friends try to helo Olivia in various ways – Franny sets her up with a personal trainer named Mike (Scott Can) who right from the beginning is quite obviously a complete swine and only gets worse, and they try to encourage her to get a better job, while being exasperated at her pot-smoking lifestyle.

And that’s more or less it. Lots of things happen, but nothing actually happens if that makes sense. This film is really an exploration of these people’s lives. The kind of scenes that we witness are totally believeable (two of three friends discussing the absent friend), Olivia mooning over a married ex-boyfriend, Christine sobbing over the realisation that she and her husband are no longer happy together…in truth, if you like a lot of action in your films, then this is not one for you. The ending itself is fairly inconclusive. It doesn’t come full circle with a neat conclusion, instead the whole movie is like a slice of life, and the ending is just the point where they’ve stopped showing these lives, but certainly the lives will continue with the little human dramas and triumph that pepper these characters’ stories.

The cast is sublime. Frances McDormand continues to demonstrate exactly why she is so highly regarded – she is one of those actresses who can convey so much with just a facial expression or simple gesture. Catherine Keener’s Christine’s sadness is almost palpable, and Joan Cusack is adorable as Franny, and so real. And if anyone has doubts about Jennifer Aniston’s acting, then there are a lot of films I might direct them to, but I would probably start with this one. She is not always likeable as Olivia, and sometimes I wanted to shake her, but she was absolutely easy to invest in, and just as people do in real life, sometimes I wanted to give her a cuddle and tell her it would all be okay, and sometimes I wanted to yell at her.

Credit also to the male actors – Jason Isaacs played a particularly unlikeable character, but he played him so well. (Isaacs is one of my favourite actors, as he has great range, and is so real in everything he does). Greg Germann was great too as Matt, but I just adored Simon McBurney, who was kind, clever and sweet as Aaron.

In all, I would say that if you like slow paced character studies, rather than high octane thrillers, give this a go. I enjoyed it a lot and hope you do too.

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Year of release: 2008

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Writer: Nicole Holofcener

Main cast: Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, Simon McBurney, Jason Isaacs, Greg Germann, Scott Caan

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This four part mini-series, adapted from Elizabeth Strout’s novel of the same name, stars France McDormand (who also bought the rights to the novel, and was executive producer) as the titular character, and spans 25 years of Olive’s life in small town Maine.  It also stars Richard Jenkins as her husband Henry, John Gallagher Jr as her son Christopher, and a large cast of other supporting characters.

It’s not an easy watch, but my goodness, this series was so compelling that I could not bear to tear my eyes away and watched all four hour long episodes in one sitting.  Olive is not always a likeable character; in fact most of the time, she is downright rude, and often cruel to those around her, especially Henry.  Despite everything, her husband loves her dearly, and never stops trying to show his affection.  In contrast to his wife, Henry is kind, compassionate and good-hearted – as the town pharmacist, he is popular and well-loved in the community, although the same cannot be said of his wife.  Nonetheless, Olive is always, ALWAYS an interesting character.  She is capable of occasional kindness, but never of warmth, and she cites her family’s history of depression as one reason for this.

The whole cast, but particularly McDormand and Jenkins, were absolutely stunning and heartbreaking.  I really felt for poor Henry, who Olive spoke to so harshly, and also for her son Christopher, who as he grows up, finds his own way of dealing with the coldness of his mother.  Despite everything, I ended up feeling sorry for Olive, as she ends up alienating almost everyone (although she would have hated to be pitied).  The show featured other people who live in the same town as Olive, and how she and Henry interact with them – the storyline about a former student of hers named Kevin Coulson was particularly touching, and Cory Michael Smith put in a truly touching performance in the role.

This is not the show to watch if you are in need of cheering up, but if you like good drama, and outstanding acting, then please see this if you can.  It is one of the best mini series I have ever watched, and I will definitely return to it at a later date.

Year of release: 2014

Director: Lisa Cholodenko

Producers: Frances McDormand, Jane Anderson, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Steve Shareshian, David Coatsworth

Writers: Elizabeth Strout, Jane Anderson

Main cast: Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, John Gallagher Jr., Peter Mullan, Zoe Kazan, Cory Michael Smith

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