Friends with Benefits (Blu-ray)
As a rule, I do not enjoy romantic comedies. Despite attending film school I still completely suspend disbelief when a movie starts. I LOVE movies, as an art form and as a form of escape. When I go to see a movie, I am invested completely, even in the terrible ones. For this reason, romantic comedies drive me crazy. Every romantic comedy ever made has (what I refer to as) “the uncomfortable 15 minutes.” This is the 15-ish minutes near the end of the movie where everything that you see building throughout the story suddenly comes to a head. Nothing will end well, it seems… this drives me crazy. I hate the uncomfortable fifteen…
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, in an interesting twist, is actually a movie about two people who are trying to avoid all of the Hollywood clichés about love (perfect for me, right?). This is the story of Dylan (Justin Timberlake of IN TIME and THE SOCIAL NETWORK), an up-and-coming online art director, and Jamie (Mila Kunis of FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and BLACK SWAN), an executive recruiter who brings Dylan to NY for an interview with GQ magazine. They quickly become friends who are able to confide in each other in a way that neither has been able to achieve and decide that, perhaps, they can enjoy a strictly sexual relationship without ruining their friendship.
Both Dylan and Jamie are tired of being referred to emotionally “unavailable” and “damaged.” They want someone that they don’t have to connect to, and in doing so they slowly realize how much they value each other. I don’t think that is giving anything away… I mean, you can see where the movie is headed about 10 minutes in. I’ll bet you knew where the movie was headed halfway into the second paragraph of this review, in fact. Still, FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS takes you on a fun ride and really does a great job with the material. Being a movie that deals with clichés means that you often find yourself up to your eyes in them – but director Will Gluck (EASY A) does a great job hiding them so that they only become apparent over time. Yes, of course, the uncomfortable fifteen still exists in a movie such as this… but when it is this painful the payoff is that much better.
Now is as good a time as any to discuss the inevitable… Justin Timberlake. I’ve never been sold on him. Sure, he has gnawed slowly at my resolve with his well-played performances on Saturday Night Live, not to mention genuinely appearing to be someone who is thankful for where he is in life. This movie helped me come full circle on him… Timberlake is as natural and funny in this film as Jason Segal is in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008). Here he is as natural as anyone else in the film, which is saying a lot. Co-star Mila Kunis is also wonderful in the movie. She’s also a natural and has a charisma on screen that is undeniable.
The surprise of this movie is just how good it is, from top to bottom. In addition to the stars, the supporting cast is phenomenal. Richard Jenkins (LET ME IN) and Jenna Elfman (KEEPING THE FAITH) give credibility to the entire film by delivering nuanced performances as Dylan’s father and sister, respectively. And great turns from Patricia Clarkson (doesn’t she just pick the best jobs recently?) and Woody Harrelson add the icing to the cake. FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS may sound like the same movie as NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman) but it isn’t. FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS is the movie that No Strings should have been. The movie is not gentle with the subject matter but I highly recommend it.
Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) As a recent film, this one really didn’t have anything negative. The transfer is nice and crisp and enhances some very intimate moments as portrayed by Kunis and Timberlake.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio track is well mixed and provides some great enhancement to the mood, be it comical or sexy.
Bonus Benefits: A Pop-Up Trivia Track (01:49:25) I like these tracks when they’re included on blu-rays, but I think I’ve been spoiled. This one is forgettable. The trivia is lackluster and too few and far between.
Audio Commentary with Director Will Gluck and Actors Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake (01:49:25) The chemistry of the actors carries through into the commentary. It, like the movie, is full of profanity but is incredibly fun. If you enjoy the film, this is a great track.
Deleted Scenes (08:49) Ten scenes are included here that were cut, primarily for pacing. They are available with or without Writer/Director Commentary with Will Gluck. They’re enjoyable.
Outtakes (06:40) This is a pretty decent gag reel that cracked me up a few times.
On Set With FWB (05:39) A brief making-of featurette where Gluck, Kunis, and Timberlake discuss their experience shooting on location in NYC, Hollywood, and in the sound stage.
In A Flash: Choreographing A Mob (05:48) Gluck talks about using flash mobs along with the choreographer. To make it work they used 20 dancers and 400 extras, who they taught to do the dancing. The logistics looked terrifying, but they did a GREAT job presenting them in the movie.