I meant to get into Nicole Holofcener‘s Friends with Money (Sony Classics) on the occasion of its limited opening yesterday, but I dropped the ball or vegged out or whatever. And it’s…well, an honest, well-observed relationship drama I enjoyed in some respects, but that I wanted to like more. And yet I’m glad it was made because of its here-and-there satisfactions. (During these portions it seems to almost approach the level of wholeness and character refinement found in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s A Letter to Three Wives.) But as much as I tried to roll with Friends I found it hard to like all but one of the characters, and that’s what’s known as a stopper. Frances McDormand‘s “Jane”, an unhappy middle-aged clothes designer with lots of anger issues and a very curious English husband with the worst hair I’ve seen on any screen actor in my life, was the only one I really went for. I wish the film had been primarily about her and only peripherally about her pallies. The male characters (played by Jason Isaacs, Gregg Germann, Simon McBurney, Scott Caan and Bob Stephenson) are either weird or arrogant pricks or vaguely undecipherable, or a combination of all three. Jennifer Aniston‘s “Olivia,” a single, relatively poor house-cleaner, is hard to like or respect because she lets Caan’s “Mike”, a complete asshole, treat her like dirt and use her like a whore. Catherine Keener ‘s “Christine”, an unhappy screenwriting mom in a bad marriage to Isaac’s character, expresses herself in a third-act scene in one of the dumbest ways I’ve ever seen a bright, self-aware female character express herself in any movie, ever. Joan Cusack ‘s very wealthy “Franny” character is a nice considerate sort, but I couldn’t get a handle on her or her empty-vessel husband, played by Germann. And what’s with McBurney’s character apparently being gay (he’s pegged that way by all the female characters, and he seems repeatedly inclined to strike up relationships with new men) but Holofcener never resolving this issue one way or the other? I’ve seen Friends twice and I still don’t get it. I think it’s fair to say that Holofcener has as much interest in writing fully-dimensioned male characters as Oliver Stone and Michael Mann have in writing fully-dimensioned women. I was speaking to Isaacs at the Friends premiere after-party and told him I was sorry his character disappeared from the film after divorcing Keener’s. Holofcener happened to walk by at that very moment and Isaacs jokingly said, “Hey, Nicole, what happened to my character after the divorce?” and she said, “He fell off a cliff!” We all laughed, but I think Holofcener was showing her cards to some extent. And yet at the end of the day Friends with Money isn’t a bad way at all to spend your movie money. Not perfect, incomplete, annoying at times…but at least a film trying to say or capture something about life in 2006 as it’s actually being lived among affluent L.A. westsiders, just as A Letter to Three Wives was on some level a reflection of what life was like for educated, upscale middle-class marrieds in 1949.