It’s not a big stretch to imagine some upstanding filmgoer in Kansas — or, for that matter, East L.A. — coming out of a Nicole Holofcener movie muttering, “Can you believe those asshole narcissists?” Holofcener, whose third acid-laced chick flick, Friends With Money, was just released to mostly favorable reviews from female critics, ought to be crowned unauthorized filmmaker to Los Angeles’ Westside. She has a light and musical sense of place; every film is insistently local and specific — the Farmers Market on the Third Street Promenade, a sprawling home in the Palisades, midrange eateries and shopping malls — and her characters speak Topangan and Santa Monican. Like many women directors, Holofcener writes what she knows, and very likely who and what she is. Obsessed with body image and money, her characters hover precariously between failure and success, unsure of what counts as either. In Lovely & Amazing, Holofcener’s enraged alter ego, Catherine Keener, rents decidedly down-market and hawks miniature chair sculptures around trendy boutiques; by Friends With Money, she’s selling screenplays from a fancy house, struggling to save a drowning marriage and trying not to succumb to depression. Liberated from the earth-mother niceness clamped on them in the average women’s movie, every Holofcener woman is insecure, competitive, endlessly watching her friends to see who’s up and who’s down. Creatively speaking, Holofcener is quite the bitch: She gives no quarter, but she’s also loyal and tender to apparent losers — like Jennifer Aniston’s pothead maid in Money — others would roll their eyes at and dismiss. Episodic, relatively plotless, chronically incomplete, her rambling films drive a lot of men up the wall. But we know, don’t we, girls, that these are the days of our lives.
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