Sundance Buzz: Banter Among Friends

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The early hubbub at Sundance was all about Friends with Money, the latest from Writer/Director Nicole Holofcener, which stars Catherine Keener, Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack as four Los Angeles friends whose relationships are impacted by their various stages of financial security, or insecurity. Holofcener and her friends Keener and Aniston talked with TIME's Desa Philadelphia about the film, money, and the large crowd of paparazzi and fans gathered outside their door.

TIME: Nicole let's start with you. We all know people like this, but what made you want to take on writing about them?

NICOLE HOLOFCENER: I just started writing about me and my friends. I wrote it with love so I feel that their flaws are acceptable and human and forgivable.

TIME: But the flaws are all there.

NH: I have flaws and I hope people still like me.

TIME: Where did the idea for talking about their relationships through their money issues come from?

NH: Having that idea come up in my own life, having less money, more money than people I know and what that feels like. Do I feel guilty? Do I feel entitled? Do I feel responsible? I think that real, true, deep relationships can survive money issues and these friends do survive their money issues. I thought it was an interesting, rich topic.

TIME: You all live in Los Angeles. And one of the Sundance programmers described Nicole as the Woody Allen of Los Angeles. When you see this movie it does ring true that this is an L.A. story.

CATHERINE KEENER: I think it's distinctive to not just L.A. but specifically the west side of L.A. where life is very much like that. Los Angles is such a town that has money issues, and the west side is one of the most expensive places to live in the country and yet it's rife with homeless people and many poor situations.

TIME: And also it seems like money is easier to come by there…

CK: It does seem like a jackpot kind of city, where you can just hit and make it. Fame and the pursuit of it and how serious it is as an objective now with even young people, because they think money will free them; all the money in the world will bring them their happiness.

TIME: And the thing that is great about Olivia is she makes her friends have to think about their money issues, and what they are.

JENNIFER ANISTON: That's true.

NH to JA: How did you do that?

JA: How did I do that?

CK: By saying your lines. (laughter)

JENNIFER ANISTON: That is true. It's the way she was written. She was written beautifully that way. And she is the one who is just kind of stuck and has to ask the uncomfortable question of needing to borrow money and is the topic of all their conversations at one time or another of just why she is not further ahead or making money.

CK: I think Olivia is not seemingly as uncomfortable with the topic as everyone else. I wonder whether if that happens, whether poorer people are more 'let's talk about it.' I think dividing a bill used to be more comfortable in my youth than it is now.

NH: 42 dollars each?

CK: More than a quarter?

JA: Now it's like "I'll take it."

CK: But the person who doesn't have the money doesn't want to pay more than they ate. They don't want to pay for your wine.

TIME: Another remarkable thing about his film is their stories get told through dialogue. It's kind of honest about the way we talk about our friends.

NH: Nobody wants to admit it. But even though we love each other, we all talk about each other.

TIME: Jennifer, you're moving into doing more independent movies. How is that different from the more commercial things you've done?

JA: They are different for a lot of reasons. Usually the characters I play in independent films are a little more real, a little bit offbeat. They have more of an opportunity to act in a different way…

CK: And there's the money of course…

NH: Bigger trailer, more wardrobe.

CK: Keep the wardrobe.

(laughter)

JA: I'm not doing more of them now. I don't see it that way, either.

TIME: But are you attracted to this genre?

JA: I love it. I just love to work. I love to do good work. And not all year can I get lucky that it's going to be good work.

TIME: You shot some scenes outside. Was it hard for you to be exposed when you're trying to work, with paparazzi, like what's going on out there right now?

JA: It wasn't easy but it was not impossible to do. You just do your work. But it was an inconvenience.

NH: The film crew was a very mighty force.

JA: I had my real big bodyguards with all of our awesome crew guys. You felt protected. Totally.

TIME: You've been here before to Sundance with The Good Girl. Were you expecting the circus?

CK: Wasn't it worse back then?

JA: There was nothing different. It was exactly the same.

CK: More snow.

JA: It was snowier

NH: Don't tell Jen. But actually all those people are here for me.

(laughter)

NK to JA: With The Good Girl, they were there for you then.

TIME: Nicole, tell me about having such a great cast.

NH: It's a dream come true. I fell like I must be doing something right but at the same time I feel so lucky.

TIME: Your films have had such great reception at Sundance. Is it comforting to have this festival be so receptive to your work?

NH: Absolutely, because they helped nurture my work. So yes, I'm really glad. Everything they taught me in the workshops has paid off in my work. And Robert Redford. He hugged me. That was comforting.

Friends with Money will be released by Sony Pictures Classics on April 7