Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole Ashland
Markus Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Rated R for some violent content and brief sexuality
Now playing at Oakridge Mall in San Jose, California:
In a film that will make you hate flash mobs, if you don’t already, director Will Gluck (Easy A) “Friends with Benefits” is ultimately working with a “reinventing the wheel” concept, that while serves a purpose, will end up being a quirky, yet hit and miss adult romantic comedy.
Don’t you hate it when all of the funny scenes in a movie are in the trailers? Yeah, so do I, so, before I really begin my review, allow me to rant: From the very first scene, “Friends with Benefits” hits the ground running, spurting off one funny line after another, but sitting in a theater full of people, it became quite clear that these funny jokes (not hilarious, but funny jokes) were falling on seemingly deaf ears. The situations became so apparent that, not ten minutes in, I was asking myself: If the jokes here are funny, then why am I (or anyone else around me for that matter) not laughing?! Then it hit me. Like a moment of clarity! You know like when Justin Timberlake thought he was in love with Brittney Spears after they broke up and then she shaved her head and he realized that she was completely nuts? That kind of moment of clarity. The reason nobody was laughing, was because everyone in that theater had heard all of the jokes from this movie, nonstop and verbatim, for the past two months. This brings me to my point: The over-saturations of film trailers before their actual release into theaters is so ridiculous that, in the case of “Friends with Benefits”, I had heard 90% of the jokes, through 30 alternate versions of the same trailer, before I even saw one second of the actual movie! And in that case, what am I paying the super expensive theater prices for?! To hear the F word dropped into a joke I had already heard a thousand times in a commercial? I realize this happens all the time, but it was never (NEVER) as apparent (for me) as it was with “Friends with Benefits”. And who is to blame for RUINING my theater going experience? The writers, Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and Will Gluck (also the director), who have come through with a very clever script, are not a fault here. Any failures of this film can be attributed entirely to the production company for their senseless bombardment approach in advertising this film. Here is my analogy: The production company did to the “Friends with Benefits” audience, what that annoying guy in the movie theater, sitting in the row behind you, with a loud/obnoxious compulsion to tell, what seems like the entire theater, what is going to happen in the very next scene just before it happens (mid bouts of popcorn lip smacking and Dr. Pepper slurping), does to your viewing experience; RUINS IT! So, THANK YOU Screen Gems Studios and Castle Rock Entertainment, for telling me all of the good jokes before I see the actual movie, and therefore single handedly RUINING what should have been an above average romantic comedy! Boy did that feel good to get that off of my chest! Now back to the review:
This is your classic (well, five months ago classic) boy meets girl, girl has daddy issues, guy is a womanizing scumbag, so after countless failed relationships the two decide to sleep together with “no strings attached”, kind of love story. And, for the type of romantic comedy that “Friends with Benefits” is, it does work for the most part (if you are not expecting much). The comedy (both slapstick, but more so the writing) here is very good at times, but the fact that the film is so shamelessly (and aggressively) poking fun at its own genre surprisingly does not raise the comedic levels as much as one might think. Not to say that the satirical references to other rom-coms (as I like to call them) throughout don’t work, they just become gimmicky after awhile when you realize that the comedy in this film has one tone. And again, this aspect works for the type of comedy it is. Also, “Friends with Benefits” does verge on sacrilegious, as it suggest that it is attempting to become the next “When Harry Met Sally”, but if you watch this film you will soon realize that it doesn’t even come close, so all should be forgiven.
Overall the acting was watch-able (and at times even enjoyable) from the two leading actors, Justin Timberlake (Bad Teacher) and Mila Kunis (Black Swan); the chemistry is another story. Kunis gives a fairly quick-witted performance and as for Timberlake, he only does more to solidify the fact that he is a mediocre actor (at best), who can deliver lines with comic timing (kind of like the entire cast of Saturday Night Live). In all actuality the best acting performance is from Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), playing the role of Timberlake’s father who is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. And even though his is the best performance of the film, his storyline is such a downer that it doesn’t seem to fit in the hyper sexual comedy world which Gluck is attempting to present. Jenna Elfman (who shockingly plays Timberlake’s sister instead of his mother) and Patricia Clarkson play the mother and sister roles, but are such non-characters, that they are hardly worth discussing. And lastly, Woody Harrelson gets a few laughs as the abrasive homosexual sportswriter, but there is far too little of him.
Final Thought: Lots of nudity, sexually explicit language and countless sex scenes drive this film, giving the movie-goer exactly what he/she was promised from the numerous trailers: lots of nudity, sexually explicit language and countless sex scenes. And yes, even though the similarities between “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached” are baffling, the writing in the former makes it a slightly better film, plus the biggest error of the film has nothing to do with the writing at all (the same cannot be said for “No Strings Attached”). So, with all of that said, I will be giving this film a minor recommendation, but set your expectations low.