Director Jared Hess’s second movie is less cult American and more universally funny while retaining his brilliant use of colour and the impecability of his frames.
Writer critic Brian Marder says, “Ignacio (Jack Black) has never been particularly adept at anything, but he has great passion for the things that matter to him — cooking and wrestling. Growing up in a Mexican orphanage, ‘Nacho’ always dreamt of becoming a ‘luchador’— the term for a Mexican wrestler — and he even had the paunch to boot, but alas it was highly forbidden by the religious orphanage. Now grown up, he works as a chef for the only home he has ever known. He’s subjected to constant criticism at the hands of monks for the slop he calls food, but claims he isn’t paid enough for quality ingredients. So as he sees it, his only solution for more money is to pursue the forbidden fruit of becoming a luchador. He picks up a rail-thin peasant (Hector Jimenez) along the way to form a tag-team duo. Together, they’re so horrendous that fans line up just for a laugh. But that makes them underdogs, and we all know the fate of underdog characters in movies.
“Black, maybe the best comedic actor of his extraordinarily gifted generation, is a sight to behold. In Nacho Libre, his mere pose, which invariably sees him showcasing his belly as a trophy, is enough to arouse laughter. But once he opens his mouth, forget it! Nacho’s broken English-and-Spanish dialect is tailor-made for Black, as is his character’s penchant to break into Tenacious D-style song to profess his love for a nun (Ana de la Reguera). His performance, which is about as flawlessly inane as verbal/physical comedy gets.
“Director Hess still shows promise and talent. For instance, Hess exhibits an ability to find and/or create the most outlandish characters, from the star all the way down to the unknown Mexican extras. The story (which Hess co-wrote with wife Jerusha and veteran Mike White) is as thin as Nacho is portly. And, as Hess has learned the hard way, with bigger budgets come bigger constraints, such as not-so-subtle humour to appease the teen masses.”
Friends With Money is a movie about middle age and about a few months in the lives of friends. All women.
It is one of those slice-of-life movies that isn’t quite comedy or drama. It is in fact what people refer to as a dramedy. Its complexity is best summed up by Mike Szymanski.
Says Mike, “Four girlfriends head into their near-40s and wonder if they’d even be friends if they met today. Frannie (Joan Cusack) is rich and happily married, trying to decide how to give away $2 million. Christine (Catherine Keener) is fighting with her co-screenwriting partner/ husband (Jason Isaacs) about an addition to their house, and Jane (Frances McDormand) is a successful fashion designer who won’t wash her hair — and has a husband (Simon McBurney) everyone thinks is gay. The youngest of the friends is Olivia (Jennifer Aniston), who’s single, a pothead and a maid who goes through people’s drawers.
Aniston adds hard-hitting layers. Some of the fights she has with Caan sound like they could have come right out of a spat in real life. Oscar-winner McDormand is once again a wonder as a woman so filled with angst and anger, she has no idea the effect she has on those around her. Keener, too, steps up as the screenwriter struggling with a failing marriage. Friends With Money is just an enjoyable slice-of-life for couples of any kind.”