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Nicole Holofcener: The Truthdig Interview

Posted on Apr 6, 2006
Nicole Holofcener
Sony Pictures Classics

Nicole Holofcener on the set of her new movie, “Friends With Money,” with actors Frances McDormand, right, and Greg Germann.

By Sheerly Avni

(Page 2)

Was this movie also based on your own life?

Ive always been a person who wanted to break the money taboo. If I told people what I made, I would see the looks on their faces. The discomfort—ғOh are we going there? Are we going to have to talk about that? Am I going to have to divulge what I make? IԒm so sick of this privacy thing about salaries, even though my girlfriends talk about every detail of our lives, down to well, God knows. Everything.

Like Frances McDormand֒s character, talking to her husband about her friends bad marriage: ғDo you know shes never even seen his asshole?Ҕ

Yes, we can confess our deepest secrets, the most private things in our lives, and when we are asked what do you get paid for that, we freeze up.


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I just dont want to feel ashamed of what IҒm making, whether its too little or too much. If itҒs too little, youre being degraded, and people say ғhey you should be making more. If itԒs too much, youre ғinflated and itԒs obscene what youre making, and you feel ashamed.

But I feel like money should be a part of my intimate conversations with people that I know well. ItҒs money it֒s a huge part of everybodys lives.

There is a book out right now called ғMoney, a Memoir, by Liz Perle, which talks about exactly this. How for women, money is still a taboo subject, and this keeps them from figuring out how to manage their money well.

As I reach this age it becomes even more talked about—and not talked about. Can you pay for private school, do you choose to pay for private school, blah blah blah. I have a friend who wonԒt pay for private school, but she will spend a helluva lot of money on clothes.  [Sneers a bit for dramatic effect.] Shell spend that much money on clothes, but not on education?

Who are we to judge how other people spend their money? But we do it anyway.  We love to judge.

Right, and Olivia [AnistonҒs character] is in the position where her friends all feel sorry for her. Shes a bit younger than they are, her life is unsettled. We hear over and over from the other women what a head case she is, and how worried they are, but my sense was that they were jealous of her too.

Really, how?

Well, the othersҒ lives are set in some ways. Children, houses. Olivia still has freedom.

You feel that way?

Sure. Unlike the other women, she still has a lot more choices than they do.

I dont feel that way. I feel like they wouldnҒt trade everything to be in Olivias shoes.

Think. For a woman to be 35, or 36, and have no money, and no boyfriend, and all your past boyfriends are louts ҅ your friends are going to be worried about you! I mean, you know her eggs are diminishing.

[Editors note: Our interviewer, who meets all these criteria—and then some—got thrown off by the phrase ғdiminishing eggs and missed the next few sentences.]

On the other hand, though, I think they are also judgmental, and I think that we are judgmental by nature. We all think we know whatԒs going on with other peopleWe can say, like in the movie, œOh, that womans husband is gayҔ but will we look at our own marriage?

The happiest couple in the movie is also the richest. Not very PC.

No, right? I guess I just think that life is about luck. This rich couple happens to have the most money. And they also happen to love each other the most. Thats just the way it is. ItҒs just kind of fucked oops, can I say that for your publication?

Oh, yes.

Good. Well then yes, it֒s fucked. I think money does help. I dont think it can help a bad relationship. But it makes a good relationship better, more able to enjoy their lives together, without financial stress.

So theyҒre just lucky in a way that Anistons character doesnҒt seem to be, at least at first.

Theres always that theory that when youҒre single youӒre not ready, you just dont love yourself enough yet.Ҕ Sure, all that hokey-pokey stuff, that airy fairy stuff, might be true. But at the same time, I believe that a lot of things in life are luck and fate, and that theres less poetry to it than we all want to think.

You say your movies come from your own life. Have you had friendships fall apart because of income disparity, because money got in the way?

ThereҒs a huge disparity, but its nothing we canҒt deal with. We all talk about our goddamn feelings so much that if anyone has a feeling it gets spread around.

You also directed several episodes of Sex and the CityӔ—from the first season, when it was still good.  But it wasnt particularly realistic.

ItҒs not realistic. Well, no, in its heart it was, the fact that because these women were so incredibly important to each other, that felt real to me. Even though I personally could never dress like that or look like that or talk like that.

Did you really believe that those women could have been friends, as different as they were?

Well, OK, not Samantha [the slutty publicist] or Charlotte [the waspy art dealer], but as a foursome, yes, they held together; they had an energy.

Youre one of the only directors I can think of who makes movies that really explore womenҒs friendships.

Friendship is such a huge part of your life, and it can be really dramatic. When I did Walking and Talking,Ӕ people kept insisting that the two women in the story were gay. And I kept saying that this has nothing to do with being gay. This is female friendship, and female friendship is loaded.

Your films always center around how women relate to each other. Will your next film do so as well?

Im not working on another film. I just donҒt have any ideas yet. Seriously, they come slowly!

I cant blame it on being a woman or saying that I canҒt get a movie made I just haven֒t liked anything Ive written enough to want to make it. And I do other things in between, writing jobs, directing TV shows. And I raise my kids.

[She shrugs, smiles.] You know how time goes by.

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By Jane, April 2, 2008 at 12:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Walking and Talking reminded me a lot of Claudia Weill’s “Girlfriends” from 1979.  Almost the same plot.  But I’m a huge fan of everything NH does.  I have some different comments about FWM, though.
A.  I too, don’t get how the CK character “suddenly” realized she’d be cutting off her neighbor’s views by putting in a 2nd floor.  Uhm, its why you don’t stand up while others are trying to watch a movie.
B.  I totally believed that husband could be gay and also be the world’s perfect husband, that happens a lot.
C.  Also totally believed that woman could leave her hair unwashed, women in that echelon are surrounded by yes people.  (I’m from there).
D.  The JA character didn’t sleep with the fat guy because he had money, she slept with him because he suddenly wasn’t poor and needy in her estimation, and having money (and hiding the fact that he was rich) would put a little hair on any guy’s balls.
E.  The ONE, no, TWO main things I didn’t buy; were all the scenes with Scott Caan.  I disliked the JA character so much for letting that creep rout around in her client’s house!  Would you really? Expose the trust of someone to a one night stand?? Ewww…. and also, I can’t buy that she would sit there in the Los Feliz diner and let him carry on the lunchtime flirtation with his ex…I would have walked, any girl would have walked, and NOT have paid the check on the way out.  It wasn’t like he was tall, handsome, had a cool job, was a great lover, or had been fixed up by someone she owed a favor to (like a grandma or favorite aunt). He was a short snotty loser with no personality who couldn’t even remember her answers to his morose questions. 
I really love the movie but…you know…Scott Caan is probably a nice person, but.  If Al Pacino or George Clooney did that? Maybe, but not a gym instructor with no personality, she was too cute for that.  She would have been used to being treated better.  She also would have had a coterie of ex-boyfriends still calling her, not just the other way around.  Right girls?
But I still love NH and this movie.

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By californiadreamer, April 24, 2006 at 11:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Saw the movie at the Encino in an audience that was the valley equivalent of West LA types such as portrayed in the movie.  My wife and I enjoyed the movie but on the ride home we discussed some of the plotline curiosities.  A/why wouldn’t the screenwriter understand how adding a second floor to her home would affect the view of her neighbors.  B/all the characters seem to have been marriage-less or child-less well into their thirties.  Late-bloomers or career-track.  C/How long was Aniston character a teacher before she gave it up—must have been quite a few years unless she’s been a housekeeper.  D/Most of all, are we supposed to see Anison character as a “golddigger” who jumps into bed with a rather unattractive, seemingly depressed man who just happens to be rich.  Is it all about money?  I do know that West Valley people are often working overtime to keep up with the Jones’ newest SUV or vacation destination.  Smell the roses, not the filthy lucre.

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By Jonathan Goodman, April 14, 2006 at 8:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yeah so you’ve paid some serious dues and
you know your way around the “political”
block.  All the more puzzling to me is the
obvious blind spots you seem to evince in
your profuse pontificating; so much so that
I am leaning toward a double-agent i.d.on
you.  I caught your Left Right and Stupid show
tonight—what caught my ear was the char-
acterization of the health insurance SCAM
just now put forward by the gov’t of the
Masachusetts commonwealth.  I have to say
in passing that although you and your fellow
poondits may not be screaming, you seem
to be perfect examples of Ronald Reagan’s
infamous Effete Snob category.  That said,
are you really stupid?  Do you really think
that a health plan that kowtows totally to the
Insurance Thievery, coupled with the obscene
drug mfg. and medical providers(yes dear,
greedy DOCTORS) insatiable and ever more
sleazy public robbery , is a “step forward”?
I’m through you and through with you Scheer.
You have been EXPOSED by yours truly….

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By Manon Banta, April 14, 2006 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m with you Sheerly, I’m meet all that criteria as well, late thirties, single and financially challenged but I am not worried by my “diminishing eggs” because I don’t equate my self worth with my reproductive potential. Not every woman’s goal is a husband and family. Do we have no value otherwise? I am not sad nor desperate nor in denial. I am enjoying my singleness and freedom and not searching for “the missing other half” because I know I am perfect, whole and complete as I am. Can we please start offering girls and women alternate visions of ways to be in this world and know that they have value as well?

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By nate, April 10, 2006 at 10:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

ya sure but whatever are lives reveal, if we had a little fun or played our roles well ,so it was life.

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By Shag, April 7, 2006 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Does this mean she’ll marry her stepson?

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By Pia Dykert, April 7, 2006 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Financial stress from a female perspective is a very interesting theme. I´m really looking forward to se this film. I see her wish to break the “money taboo” with a(comedy?)also involve other taboos in life. How vunerable people feel when their income is revealed is true. It´s like having a prizetag arround your neck. A womans worth should never be related to her income or if she is married or not, but that is exactly how women still measure other women. Ask any single mom.

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By Jonnan, April 7, 2006 at 6:44 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Now she sounds like an interesting person to be around.

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