Friends With Benefits (2011)
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Keith Marryman, David A. Newman, Will Gluck, Harley Peyton
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: R
Time: 109 minutes
Genre: Comedy Romance
USA Release: 7/22/2011
On DVD (USA): 12/2/2011
I’m sorry Natalie Portman, but Mila Kunis just did a better job at the same movie. Now we all know of the pretty awful movie that was “No Strings Attached” that came out at the beginning of the year. The difference between the two not only lies with the title and cast but also that “Friends with Benefits” just has a far superior script that unlike the other actually has a story. The story worked and the comedy was much smarter, but like any rom-com it does have it’s imperfection.
In “Friends With Benefits” we meet Jamie (Mila Kunis), she is an executive recruiter or “head hunter” based in New York City and Dylan (Justin Timberlake), he is an art director for a small internet company in Los Angeles. The story follows after Jamie tries to recruits Dylan for GQ magazine and after getting him to come New York for an interview, he ends up getting the job. While there she shows him the city in hopes that he will actually take the job since he is on the fence about it. And after a fun night of seeing the city he agrees to take the job. Soon after moving there and starting his job Dylan and Jamie quickly become friends. One night while hanging out, they start talking about why people can’t just have sex and why things must get so emotional. With both feeling the same way and not feeling any more attraction to each other, other than being friends, they decide to do it, having only a sexual, no emotions fling. But soon they realize that the idea wasn’t the best and they decide to stop, which lets them see other people. Before long Jamie meets Parker (Bryan Greenberg) and they begin to date, but after a few dates he suddenly breaks up with her, leaving her furious. When Dylan finds out he decides to invite her to California with him to help her get over it, and there she meets his family. And after having a wonderful few days, things start to take a serious turn that might end the friendship.
With “Friends With Benefits” and “No Strings Attached” coming out around the same time, you can’t help but pin them against each other, but unfortunately there is no competition because “Friends With Benefits” (F.W.B.) pulls off the thing that “No Strings Attached” (N.S.A.) couldn’t, giving you a way better time at the movies. And that was thanks in part to Will Gluck who brings us another funny movie, although it is just slightly under par to last years “Easy A“. With that like I said before the writing was just a huge step up from “N.S.A.” bringing out a lot wittier and structurally better formed movie, with more fully formed characters. In this, the story doesn’t just revolve around the idea of casual sex it has substance, however although this is mostly a comedy just after the halfway mark of the movie it takes a serious drop in tone and becomes freighting serious. Now there is no problem if a comedy wants to get serious, but the fact of the matter is that in this it comes on way to fast. And after it takes that turn the movie stays with this dark undertone for the rest of the movie.
As for the supporting cast which includes Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson, all of whom were an excellent fit in there respected roles, especially Harrelson who shined as the gay sports editor at GQ. Now we can’t forget the leads, Justin Timberlake who used SNL as a springboard to launch into a acting career does a great job, but still has a long way to go, although I enjoyed his performance in “The Social Network” you can still feel the inexperience of being a leading man, but he has plenty of room to grow. As for the character of Dylan, he is unsure of himself and leaving his home for a new place all because of his career, but through Jamie he opens himself up to a different world. And along the way he discovers that as much as he wants only a sexual fling, deep down he wants the whole package. Like I said earlier about “F.W.B” pulling off what “N.S.A.” couldn’t the same can be said for Mila Kunis’s performance, that although Portman outshined her in “Black Swan” Kunis did the with this movie, as her comedic skill are far better. With that experience Kunis is able to land every line with great timing and energy, even seeming to carry the scene by herself, and she definitely has the talent to pull it off. Another great thing was like that of Elfman, Clarkson, Jenkins and Harrelson she had a real ease with every line and scene in the movie, and also had great comedic chemistry with everyone she shared a scene with. As for her character of Jamie, although she has been raised be a mother who showed no parenting skills forcing her to grow up fast and experience things in life without any help she still developed this idea of perfect love. But when she meets Dylan she puts on an act of only wanting sex but deep down like Dylan she wants more.
Overall, this is a smart take on the romantic comedy genre that at times even pokes fun at the type of movie it is. Although it still may be as predictable as most rom-coms are, it is still a great movie that has more fully formed characters and a actually story that delivers smart witty lines. Unfortunately it does give you a punch in the face as it suddenly takes a huge drop in tone, but to the most part the performances in this will leave you not disappointed.