Sunday, April 23, 2006

Thank you for Money (or Smoking Friends?)

I never wrote about "Thank You For Smoking" and it's been two weeks now and the movie has flitted out of my head. (Like a wisp of... oh, never mind.) I don't think that's really a surprise, as it's not intended to be a deep, thought-provoking film that you can't shake. On Elvis Mitchell's "The Treatment," director Jason Reitman said he was most influenced by "Citizen Ruth" and strove to create that same balance of not taking a side in a controversial issue, but to point out the hypocrisy and sometimes the foolishness of both. To a limited extent, he did, but there's a great difference between a highly passionate and divisive issue like abortion and the question of smokers' rights. I was a smoker and I never convinced myself that it wasn't killing me, or that marketing to children was cool. For most people, being asked to sympathize with Big Tobacco is a stretch, while I can imagine audiences walking away from "Citizen Ruth" with entirely different impressions of what they just saw based on their own strongly-held opinions about reproductive choice. I'd recommend "Thank You For Smoking," though, because sometimes it's just straight-out funny, and Aaron Eckhart is fascinating to watch.

"Friends With Money" is packed with actresses I'd watch in almost anything: Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand. And, yes, Jennifer Aniston, who the movie wants to revolve around. Unfortunately, she's just not as interesting a character - whether that's the actress's fault or it's inherent in the writing is a mystery. But I could've watched an entire movie about Frances McDormand and her husband, and I wish I could have seen more of Joan Cusack and hers. The best thing about Jennifer Aniston's role is that she meets this somewhat shlubby-looking guy with beautiful eyes and smile and a weight problem that the film ignores. (Check out his imdb bio - he plays mostly security guards and cops. If that's not the sign of a non-leading man's physique... And he's eating ice cream in his publicity photo.) I loved him because he's not Brad Pitt and loved the movie for not shoving it down our throats that he wasn't.

I was momentarily stunned when Frances McDormand's character celebrates her 43rd birthday. (Then depressed as she and her husband debate whether her life is now in a downward spiral. Yes, I'm 43.) Isn't she a lot older than me? Turns out she's 48, so it's not much of a stretch, but I identify more with Cusack (yep, she's 43), Keener (46) - damn, I guess it's all relative.

But they aren't - relatives, I mean. A few reviews I read pointed out the lack of explanation as to why these four women were friends, so maybe I was looking for it, but it did seem like a hole in the film. Even if we accept the older three as contemporaries who could have schooled together, Aniston is clearly too young (37) to have been anything but a bratty younger sister. But I guess if she were, the basic premise of the film (how much do you owe your friends? what keeps your friendships intact?) would be meaningless because of the family bond.

But don't ask me, as I was always curious as to how the "Sex and the City" women met and bonded. No explanation ever given there, either, as far as I know.


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