Friends with Benefits
Although I liked LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS and never saw NO STRINGS ATTATCHED, I wasn’t that excited about what appeared to be another retread about casual sex with no attachment in FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS. So it was to my delight that I laughed out loud more than handful of times. In fact, my mouth was a little sore from the smiles it provided.
The premise is basically what those titles say, Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) swear on an iPad Bible app to be friends with benefits with no strings attached staying away from love and other drugs. Until they finally realize they do have feelings for one another. This is a romantic comedy heavy on the comedy and light on the romance but we all know what’s going to happen. The question is will our two protagonists get together in a unique and entertaining way. Entertaining? Absolutely. Unique? Well, its entertainment value was sort of unique in the respect that I wasn’t expecting it. They both have familiar baggage. Dylan is emotionally detached with a father (Richard Jenkins) suffering from Alzheimers. While Jamie has visions of a fairy tale true love with a flighty unreliable mother (Patricia Clarkson) and a father she has never met.
Our two leads deserve most of the credit. Although there were many well-written jokes that kept coming, I think the chemistry and comedic timing from Kunis and Timberlake is what sold the film. This definitely falls flat with a different cast. They sold the jokes and some of the more awkward dialogue was masked by their charisma and chemistry. There’s that word again. Seriously, the chemistry was effortless. It’s important that they were able to achieve the laughs they did because their supporting cast was firing on all cylinders. Patricia Clarkson plays Jamie’s hippie mother who says some very outlandish lines. Woody Harrelson is absolutely hilarious as a vulgar gay sports writer with an uncanny deliverance of wisdom. Also making some nice cameos is Olympic gold winning snow boarder Shaun White and funny girl actress Emma Stone as an ex girlfriend to Dylan. Give that girl more screen time!
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS is very aware of itself giving nods to Seinfeld – who originated the concept of friends sleeping together with Jerry and Elaine and sappy predictable romantic comedies – hilariously portrayed by Jason Segel and Rashida Jones in a fake movie within the movie. But just because you point out that you are falling into those cliché traps doesn’t make it OK to fall into those cliché traps.
Where FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS fails with a somewhat sleazy concept, it makes up for in clever laughs. The film is very generationally targeted, as I believe all the pop culture references of John Mayer, Flash Mob, Closing Time and Kris Kross will date the movie quickly, it doesn’t refute the fact that I was laughing and smiling ear to ear. The funny won me over but I would not watch this with my parents.