Movie ReviewsRating: 2 of 5 yaps

Friends with Benefits

Boy, I could really feel “Friends with Benefits” trying.

This hip romantic comedy wants you to know that it’s not just an average romantic comedy. It is aware that it’s a romantic comedy and acknowledges and mocks the convention of that genre — even as it falls back on them time and again.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis — two performers whose acting skills have not heretofore impressed me — play a pair of best buds who decide to incorporate sex into the relationship while keeping the friendship intact.

Of course, this never works in real life, or in the movies. And the characters and script of “Friends” is smart enough to admit this before setting off into an adventure that the audience and the film both know will fail.

The movie seems to think that by announcing itself in this way, it can then proceed to do every predictable thing we know is going to happen because it’s cool they called it out beforehand.

This movie reminded me of a shy, awkward guy who approaches a girl at a bar and opens with, “You may think this is really stupid, but…” And then, having told her that what he’s going to say is pitiful, he is surprised when she’s inclined to think so, too.

Timberlake is Dylan, who works at a rambunctious start-up website in the crunchy Pacific Northwest. He’s recruited to interview for a position as art director at GQ magazine in New York, with Kunis playing Jamie, the headhunter pitching the job to him. Or rather, she’s pitching him the job because Dylan is very ambivalent about moving to the big city and going mainstream.

After a magical evening on the town, right down to a massive flash mob dancing in Times Square that Jamie arranged just for Dylan, he agrees. (I can only imagine if he’d said, “Yeah, I’m bushed. Gonna just go back to my hotel room.” That’s a lot of phone calls to make.) Not only that, they find such a connection that they start hanging out as friends.

After a pair of crashes in their respective love lives, they decide to add sex to the bill of fare. No commitments, no mushy scenes of regret, just an exchange of physical needs — not unlike a game of tennis, they reason.

There’s a certain friskiness to their couplings, including some glimpses of Timberlake and Kunis’ naked posteriors (or at least Kunis’ body double, I suspect).
I don’t need to go into detail about what happens next. Despite the movie’s pretensions and look-ma-no-hands self-referencing, it still ends up right where you knew it was going to go.

In fact, the mocking of romcom convention often ends up backfiring. There’s a number of bits when Dylan breaks into snippets of song — ostensibly to comment on the intrusive use of music in romantic movies but really, I suspect, to give Timberlake a chance to show off his golden pipes.

But then later, “Friends” employs the same syrupy, incongruous musical cues that it was just lampooning.

Director Will Gluck, who helmed last year’s clever “Easy A,” co-wrote the screenplay with Keith Merryman and David A. Newman. They do manage a few funny moments and a couple of characters who are more interesting than the stars.

Woody Harrelson plays Tommy, a co-worker of Dylan’s who is extremely enthusiastic about expressing his gayness. He’s positively puffed up with happiness and wants the world to know it’s because he loves men. I’d like to think that such an exuberant soul could exist and work at a straight men’s magazine, though I tend to doubt it.

The great character actor Richard Jenkins plays Dylan’s father, who’s suffering from dementia. The writers give him one great scene in an airport that was so passionate, angry and true, I felt sorry that the movie around it was unworthy.

2 Yaps


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17 Responses to “Friends with Benefits”

  1. Victor Wakley says:

    Was surprised at how good this movie turned out to be. Not a big fan of Justin Timberlake, but he was enjoyable in this flick. And Mila is as great as ever.

  2. Julie Wakley says:

    Finally got to see this movie over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it! The chemistry between Justin and Mila made it a fun movie to watch.

  3. DANIELLE says:

    This was not my favorite. The story was predictable and Justin Timberlake’s performance was flat and unbelievable. Mila Kunis was fun to watch, but she couldn’t overcome the weak, occasionally rudderless story. C’mon. You’ve got the young art director for GQ who has so much time on his hands that he seems virtually unemployed. Really? In NY, where people would kill for his job? In the end, my favorite character by far was the joyous, gay coworker, played by Woody Harrelson.

  4. Chris Johnson says:

    This film is awesome looking. It’s funny, good, and just a interesting film. Should be a great one to see,

  5. Rebecca says:

    Haven’t seen it yet, but I will be seeing it simply for Justin. Hate to say it, but I don’t go see movies like this for originality or crazy plot twists. Of course you know what is going to happen when you go in to the movie…these types of movies are always predictable. I go see them because they are light, funny, and have actors that I enjoy. And sometimes I don’t want to think about a movie…I just want to be entertained!

  6. Lindsay Drews says:

    Annnnnd this is why I’ll be waiting til the DVD comes out! How many times can they play the same ol’ story?

  7. JOHN MOJZUK says:

    Laughed and laughed. Really liked this movie…

  8. Linda says:

    Enjoyed this movie, funnier than No Strings Attached. Thought this suited Justin more than with Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher.

  9. Paul D. says:

    Stick to singing is all I have to say.

  10. kelli says:

    i was excited to see this movie until i realized how much it was like no strings attatched. and then to top it off, justin was on ellen yesterday, and well he is such a dork i cant handle him. so i watched no strings attatched and think i will just leave the "banging your friends" movie section of my life at that and call it a day!

  11. Cortni says:

    I’m really excited to see this, just because I love JT and Mila both!!!

  12. Andrew Doehrman says:

    I saw "Friends With Benefits," and I have to agree with your opening statement: You could really feel it trying, yet, in my opinion, it fails in a major way.

  13. Becky Meredith says:

    I thought this was a very entertaining movie! Love JT in this one, lots better than the dork he played in his previous movie. He is not the best actor, but is growing in his talent.

    Loved his co-star. She is beautiful, funny, and played her part perfect.

    Becky Meredith

  14. Becky Meredith says:

    I thought this was a very entertaining movie! Love JT in this one, lots better than the dork he played in his previous movie. He is not the best actor, but is growing in his talent.

    Loved his co-star. She is beautiful, funny, and played her part perfect.

    I could watch this one again on dvd.
    Becky Meredith

  15. Beth says:

    I really enjoyed this film. It was funny and sentimental! Loved it all around and it was 10x better than No Strings Attached!

  16. Craig says:

    I enjoyed the movie a lot when I saw it a while back. It was a lot funnier than No Strings Attached (the same movie basically). Or so I thought, at least…

  17. jordan says:

    this movie was very funny. glad i got to see it.