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Movie Reviews

Friends With Benefits




Released: 22nd July 2011

Director: Will Gluck

Stars: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis

Certificate: 15

Reviewer: Mitch Hansch

Don’t want to pat myself on the back but I’m going to be the one critic who doesn’t mention that “Friends With Benefits” and this year’s earlier release “No Strings Attached” have very similar plots. Wait…ah crap. I tried. Well, since the cats out of the bag let us remember there were two volcano films in 1997 (Volcano, Dante’s Peak), two meteor movies in 1998 (Armageddon, Deep Impact), and 2011 is the year of casual sex movies.

Rejoice! Romantic comedies aren’t dead! “Friends With Benefits” is a hilariously alive rom-com that understands the cliches it’s bound to but doesn’t allow itself to be a slave to. Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake star as Jaime and Dylan. They are two characters who have the jobs and looks we all covet and the emotional deficiencies we all suffer from.

When corporate head hunter Jaime convinces L.A. super blogger to move to NYC for a sweet gig at GQ they quickly become best friends. The script has some pretty hilarious observations about the differences between L.A. and NYC- how New Yorkers don’t observe crosswalks while west coasters take that stuff seriously is spot on. When both admit their frustrations with relationships and the baggage that comes along with them they swear on the Good Book or, in this case, a Bible app for the iPad that they’ll use each other for their physical needs and not let that get in the way of their prized friendship.

We all know the road these two will go down. When the eventual realization comes along that more is wanted than sex, it’s not the destination we care about so much as the journey. Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake have more chemistry in their dressing room gift bags than Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher had in “No Strings Attached”. Kunis is electrifying with what looks like a well though out performance. Timeberlake shows that he’s here to stay as a leading man but does need to hone in his comic sensibilities with a couple of scenes of trying to be too funny.

We definitely understand these two coming together, and, more importantly, we come to understand what emotional wounds are keeping them apart by getting to know their families. Patricia Clarkson delivers as usual as Jaime’s flaky hippie mother and Richard Jenkins gives the film some weight and this viewer a quick tear as Dylan’s father suffering from Alzheimer’s. Woody Harrelson makes good with his supporting role playing Dylan’s macho gay sage friend.

Coming off directing the surprise hit “Easy A” Will Gluck does it again with “Friends With Benefits” by keeping the pace fast and pop culture references (including dance mobs) hilarious. Gluck lets us know that he gets the landmines that every bull crap rom-com has with a laugh-out-loud-uber-sappy-spoof-movie-within-the-movie that the protagonists watch where Jason Segal cameos with the kind of nonsensical line these movies are made of with “I guess New York is all out of blueberries.” At the same time Gluck uses this as a defense mechanism for the cliches that the film is littered with. The ending is as big and Hollywood as it makes fun of, but it’s also joyfully cute and absolutely rewarding.

“Friends With Benefits” is a pleasant example that we can still watch people fall in love on screen get all the benefits.

Fan of ‘Justin Timberlake’? MM review for ‘The Social Network’

Fan of Mila Kunis? MM review for ‘Black Swan’

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