FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (2011)
Starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Jenna Elfman, Nolan Gould, Woody Harrelson, Bryan Greenberg, Emma Stone, Andy Samberg, Masi Oka, Shaun White, Jason Segel and Rashida Jones.
Screenplay by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and Will Gluck.
Directed by Will Gluck.
Distributed by Screen Gems. 104 minutes. Rated R.
The storyline for Friends with Benefits may sound a little familiar.
That’s because you saw the same basic plot last year as Love and Other Drugs with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. Then a few months later, you saw it again as No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.
Now you see it again with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake.
Friends with Benefits is probably the best of the three films – just slightly – but all are rather interchangeable.
The story is pretty basic. An adorable professional guy and hot professional woman are good friends. They eventually get tired of bad relationships and busy schedules, so they decide to sleep together simply as a recreational sexual release. They only have one rule; there will be no emotional attachment.
However, can you have sex without any emotional attachment – much less falling in love?
Of course you can, but don’t tell that to Hollywood.
If they find out, they would have to stop making these movies. Well, okay, they know, but they also know there is an audience for true-love-conquers-all films. Not that it even would be that horrible a tragedy if they stopped making these movies, but in their goofy rom-com way I have enjoyed all three films. None of them is perfect, but all of them are above-average in the world of romantic comedies.
But the two flash mob scenes really could have been cut.
Friends director Will Gluck actually has a bit of a history of coming in late on a theatrical trend and raising the game a bit. His first film was the very funny cheerleader romp Fired Up! and last year he made the terrific teen angst comedy Easy A.
Gluck’s favorite trick is to make snarky asides about film clichés and then later wallow in those same clichés. But ironically. It’s sort of a post-modern wink at the audiences.
Yet, for all that, Friends with Benefits is Gluck’s most straightforward film yet.
Timberlake plays Dylan, the art director for a hip Los Angeles website. (How does a website which gets six million uniques a month afford an office and full staff?) He is approached by Jamie (Kunis), a sweet and gorgeous headhunter who wants to get him his dream job at GQ magazine in Manhattan.
He takes the job and they become friends – as he really knows no one else in New York. They walk, talk, laugh, watch old movies and bitch about ex-lovers.
And eventually they realize, what the hell, they are both single, may as well have sex. After all, they are just friends. If they just do it for fun and promise not to fall in love, there should be no complications.
Of course, this leads to complications. And the film takes a bit of a melodramatic turn in the later scenes with a supporting character’s illness. However, mostly this is a pleasant trifle of a film.
With this role, Timberlake’s metamorphosis from pop star to full-time actor is complete. Not that he does a job that any other actor couldn’t have done, but he does a very likable job of disappearing into a character – for a change you don’t see the singer as well as the character.
Kunis is gorgeous, sexy and funny in her role – continuing her career renaissance fueled by Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Black Swan after a few very down years since That 70s Show. She is more than up to carrying a film and she should continue to get opportunities.
For them alone, Friends with Benefits is worth the time. Thankfully, there are significantly more reasons to watch.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 20, 2011.