Is it possible to have a relationship with somebody without actually being in love? That’s the premise of Friends With Benefits as two single people jump into something that had funny but familiar results.
Friends With Benefits followed jaded singles Dylan (Justin Timberlake) an LA based Art Director recruited passionately by Executive Recruiter Jamie (Mila Kunis) for a position with GQ Magazine at their NYC Office. After a messy break-up, Dylan jumped at the chance to start over in a new city where his personal troubles didn’t follow him. Dylan made a new friend in Sports Editor Tommy (Woody Harrelson) who marched to the beat of his drummer and his own transportation to get around the city: his motorboat, which will be a pivotal part later in the movie. Dylan also formed a fast friend with Jamie who also was fed with love and being labeled “unavailable” by her exes just like Dylan. The friends decide to take risk and start a purely physical relationship where emotions are left by the wayside. Of course, that’s what exactly happens. Jamie’s untraditional mom (Patricia Clarkson) and Dylan’s health plagued father (Richard Jenkins) weigh in about their children’s true romantic intentions. Will their advice sink in or lead them to doing something both of them will regret?
In terms of romantic comedy cliches, Friends With Benefits had a few strong ones (the obvious ending in particular) but the movie still made the audience overlook them at least until the end credits. The R Rated humor that poked cynical fun and gave a secret wink to viewers who knew and love romantic comedies. Of course, this similiar plot was done before several months ago with No Strings Attached with a similiar conclusion, but it was still nice to see Benefits poke holes at it anyways. The film started off a little slow but once Jamie and Dylan hooked up the story really got into full swing. Timberlake and Kunis had a believable chemistry that actually went against the romantic comedy grain by making them equals instead of opposites. Timberlake seemed to be more at ease here than in Bad Teacher where his character was simply added in after the fact and simply didn’t fit with the rest of the crude humor. Kunis almost seemed to be doing a more comedic version of her Black Swan character minus the extreme drama. Both characters were fun loving individuals who got their costars to come out of their respective shells and led them to do something out of character. If only all romantic comedies were just like that, they would be much more enjoyable to watch. Throwing out the playbook would be better than reliving it over and over. Take a lesson, Hollywood. That’s what viewers want: a happy ending and a good surprise. Nothing less or more.
Verdict: A movie that laughs at romantic comedy cliches and embraces them at the same time.
Movie Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: R
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)