Friends With Money

Friends With Money (2006)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, Jason Isaacs, Simon McBurney, Greg Germann
Extras: Audio Commentary, Behind-the-Scenes and Premiere Featurettes

Call me a sap, but I rather like Jennifer Aniston. This former "Friends" star has shown that she can be one of the few to successfully make the transformation from TV celebrity to respectable film star. Deciding to take a chance on Aniston's latest fare "Friends with Money", I blind bought the DVD and was pleasantly surprised as the quick witted writing and solid performances given from this ensemble cast made for one great presentation.

This 2006 Sundance Film Festival opening night selection was more than your typical view into a somewhat average, yet quirky group of best friends that remains the focal point for "Friends with Money".

Taking place in the class-sensitive west side of Los Angeles, you quickly begin to feel the tensions surrounding the various relationships that make up this particular group of best friends. Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) is somewhat of an outsider on the surface as she is the lesser achieving of the group, only when financial success is the comparison. "Friends with Money" delves into some of the false perceptions that many people have about money and happiness. What most would perceive to be the status quo is not all it's thought to be. Aniston delivers a great performance as a slightly depressed woman who gives up on her career and currently works as a maid. With her love life also slightly challenged, her evenings are pretty much spent smoking pot and making hang-up calls to her former lover, who still happens to be married to another woman. Finding herself in a slump offers its own mixed bag of emotions as her friend's make their best attempts to support her both monetarily and fixing her up on not so successful blind dates. From bitter fashion designer Jane (Frances McDormand) and her loving husband Aaron (Simon McBurney) that everyone assumes is gay to the odd loveless and complicated relationships shared between Franny (Joan Cusack) and Matt (Greg Germann) and Christine (Catherine Keener) and David (Jason Isaacs), writer and director Nicole Holofcener truly brings a decent sampling of society to the screen.

Terrific performances all around, but standouts in my opinion have to be Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Keener and Francis McDormand.

With the home theater market on the verge of going high definition and having seen solid demonstrations of what's in store for our visual senses with both Blu-Ray and HD DVD, It makes reviewing standard definition DVDs that much more complex. I can't compare the two, yet I must overlook the shortcomings of the current format that we have all had the pleasure to welcome into our homes for the past 9 or so years. That being said, if you are like me and still rely on standard definition DVDs for your prime source of home entertainment, I can pretty much guarantee that you won't be disappointed with the picture and sound quality of "Friends with Money".

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases the lower budgeted "Friends with Money" under its Sony Pictures Classics banner. Right from the start I found this presentation to offer a terrific balance of deep rich blacks that compliment the nicely saturated color pallet, which provides tremendous details throughout. There is little in the way of annoying dust or dirt particles present, just a glorious anamorphic transfer that presents an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. I was a pleasantly surprised at the wider aspect ratio, especially considering that general comedies and melodramas are usually exhibited in the more widely utilized 1.85:1. For "Friends with Money" this presentation works just fine. Poor compression is also non-existent, only rearing its ugly head in the usual places such as artifacts that hug or surround the outlines and borders of text and credits. Other than that, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has done a fantastic job with this release of "Friends with Money".

Available in Dolby Digital 5.1, the soundtrack for "Friends with Money" accomplishes the goal of satisfying your home theater expectations. Offering a terrific soundstage that appropriately utilizes all available channels, even decent use of the rear surround channels to provide ambience all work at enhancing the visual element quite nicely. Vocal tracks appear natural and lifelike throughout the entire presentation and remain localized in the front center channel. While this soundtrack mix is by no means a reference quality presentation, for a movie of this subject matter, does it really need to be? You will be comforted with the good harmony produced by the melding of dialogue and general sound effects that are complimented by a good original score from composer Craig Richey.

Special features included in this DVD edition of "Friends with Money" starts with a full length audio commentary from writer and director Nicole Holofcener that is easy to tackle, given the films running time of only 88 minutes.

Additional added value content consists of a behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as featurettes from Sundance and the Los Angeles premiere of the film.

"Friends with Money" is an easy recommendation because this is one of those true gems of a film that deserve the right to stand above the many disastrous productions occupying the video store shelves these days. "Friends with Money" comes highly recommended.