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Overall Rating

Awesome: 1.45%
Worth A Look43.48%
Average: 13.04%
Pretty Bad: 31.88%
Total Crap: 10.14%

8 reviews, 21 user ratings

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by Dawn Taylor

"A funny, smart and grown-up look at the divide between America’s classes."
4 stars

The third feature by writer-director Nicole Holofcener (“Walking and Talking,” “Lovely & Amazing”) is neither a small indie piece like her earlier films nor the broad mainstream comedy it’s being marketed as. Instead, the picture walks a delicate line between the two and, for the most part, it succeeds. Even when it fails, it fails in ways that are still interesting.

Jennifer Aniston plays Olivia, who left her position as a teacher of affluent high-schoolers after they mocked her lack of wealth by giving her quarters to buy lunch. Now working as a housecleaner, she’s the odd gal out among her closest friends — three married couples, all of whom have a lot of money.

Holofcener’s script follows the seven people as they gossip, connive, conspire and generally talk around one another in the manner that close friends do. Franny (Joan Cusack) is married to Matt (Greg Germann) and sees no disconnect between donating $2 million to her child’s school and turning down Olivia for an $1,800 loan because that’s “a lot of money.” Christine (Holofcener veteran Catherine Keener) writes screenplays and fights a lot with her husband, David (Jason Isaacs). Jane (Frances McDormand) suffers bursts of rage when people cut in front of her in line and steal her parking spots, while everyone in the group is convinced that Jane’s husband, Aaron (Simon McBurney), is gay.

The episodic story bounces between different combinations of characters chatting, and it soon becomes clear that what they all have in common is a singular lack of empathy. While they care about their spouses and friends, they all seem utterly incapable of reading one another’s behavior, instead filtering everything through their own narrow perceptions. Were they able to step outside of themselves for a moment, they’d see what we see — that Jane’s uncontrolled anger and her refusal to wash her hair (“my arms get so tired,” she says) are signs of an impending breakdown, and that Olivia’s struggles for money have eroded her self-esteem to the point where she dully continues dating a skeezy personal trainer (Scott Caan) who has sex with her in the house she cleans and then asks for a cut of her pay because he “helped.”

Holofcener’s greatest success is in making us see the humanity behind her smugly entitled SUV-driving characters. We like them, even as we’re boggled that Christine can blithely construct a monstrous second story on her home, blocking her neighbors’ views, yet wonders why they’ve all stopped speaking to her — like metrosexual Aaron and high-strung Jane, she’s not a bad person, just a supremely egocentric one.

Aniston is continually upstaged by the three better actresses she’s cast with here, which actually works in the picture’s favor. Whether it's Aniston's intention or not, Olivia comes off as a pot-smoking, directionless cipher, and the least dynamic of the four women. There's a thoughtlessness to Matt's casual remark that Olivia's maid job is "her choice, she could do something else" (and to Franny's response: "Should we hire her?") but there's truth in it, too – if Olivia's ego is so poorly formed that she throws away her career because of a few taunting teenagers, then it's no wonder she's still obsessed with a married ex-lover and allows herself to be treated so abysmally by her current squeeze.

As good as the film is, the film's ending has Holfcener rewarding Olivia's sometimes less than stellar behavior in a morally ambiguous turn of events while leaving other characters' stories up in the air, a vaguely unsatisfying state of affairs after she's done so much to make us care about them. It's a slight quibble, though. There’s less of a cohesive sense of real community here than in the superb “Lovely & Amazing,” but in examining the social awkwardness that comes with the unspoken divide between America’s classes, Holofcener's made an intriguing, funny and very watchable thesis on the subject.

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originally posted: 04/19/06 08:38:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2006 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival For more in the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/23/10 the dork knight Mediations on postmodern ennui, with arguably sexist female stereotypes. 3 stars
3/30/09 amir so natural and beliveble without redundant 4 stars
1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Well made. 4 stars
9/14/08 Emily Incredibly boring. Everyone knows people like these, and you try to avoid them at all costs 1 stars
3/30/08 Pamela White much ado about nothing with money 3 stars
3/03/08 ravenmad 2 many stories. Tthe gay couple story was the most interesting. 3 stars
1/21/08 mb There is nothing there. 2 stars
8/13/07 Annonomiss Surprising gem with a low-key undertone. Loved unexpectedness of the characters' actions! 4 stars
12/05/06 Jen Kept waiting for something to happen. Sudden ending--no resolution. Very unsatisfying. 1 stars
10/12/06 Dawn I kept waiting for the "plot" to unfold and it just never did. Would not recommend seeing 1 stars
9/29/06 Jeff Anderson Unfocused, unsatisfying & film's hopelessly dull. A real shame! 1 stars
9/28/06 Juules This is one of the most boring, unsatifing and dullest films ever! 1 stars
4/30/06 Maggie I just saw this movie and felt is was BORING, SLOW, DULL with no story. 1 stars
4/25/06 Kimberly Disappointing! Ended abruptly but thank god it did. 1 stars
4/23/06 Mase Hofofcener may be a new female woody allen, however aniston is wildly miscast. 4 stars
4/22/06 Howard A 1 and 1/2 hour movie that took 4 hours to watch. 2 stars
4/22/06 Debra L Fox Not to quibble, but Jennifer Aniston's movie "The Good Girl" is from 2002, not 1992! 4 stars
4/11/06 Virginia Helfman An excellent film -- really lovely. 5 stars
4/05/06 Katrina Ok wouldn't spend more then a rental fee on it though 2 stars
3/25/06 Sylvia Augustiniok It may work for a television audience. Trivial and disappointing. 2 stars
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  07-Apr-2006 (R)
  DVD: 29-Aug-2006



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