Can two friends who decide to have sex actually stay friends? Or will emotions get in the way? That’s basically what the film is about. Really though it digs a little deeper than the basic premise. It really questions why people have friends with benefits in the first place, is it just the fun, or is it because we like to put our emotions away and sometimes it’s easier just not to confront them. The film follows Jamie(Mila Kunis) a head hunter who brings in Dylan(Justin Timberlake) to run the web site for GQ. The beginning of this film is very charming because it breaks the tone were expecting from a romantic comedy. The point being that this movie at first wants us to believe it’s not a romantic comedy, yet a film making fun of them. The beautiful thing is that the film could have just tried to edgy like it’s characters but it blatantly shows that some elements of romantic comedies can’t be avoided.
Mila Kunis is frankly an underrated talent, she was great in Forgetting Sarah Marshal and had very solid moments in Black Swan and Book of Eli. Here she is so charming and funny it’s hard to figure out why she isn’t in these movies more often. Justin Timberlake is also very talented, when he hosts SNL those episodes become classics. He is also daring enough to play straight up assholes in one form or another. We’ve seen this is The Social Network and Bad Teacher. Problem is here he just doesn’t work. I don’t know what it is but his performance is just off. I think mainly it’s how he approached the character, Dylan has emotional issues, from his parents divorce to his dad’s mental health falls apart. Yet Timberlake’s approach just makes Dylan come off as stiff and slightly odd, it’s hard to see where Jamie could like him. Still the writing in the film actually pushes past this.
The best thing about this movie is that it battles with its own identity while it is playing. At first the film starts off as an edgy anti-romantic comedy film. At one point Jamie yells at a poster for “The Ugly Truth” a horrible romantic comedy. Yet the characters can’t help but fall into the steps all romantic comedies go into, they did this on purpose and it works.
Now I have to mention the film everyone compares it to, several months ago No Strings Attached starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman opened and had a very similar premise. The weird thing is that film isn’t as good as this film but it is funnier. Friends with Benefits is just very well constructed and has some very well written character moments, problem is there are just that many highly comedic moments in it. No Strings Attached is just a hilarious movie but it’s plot was kind of all over the place. Frankly a better film to compare Friends with Benefits to is Going the Distance, also opened recently with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. I really liked that movie, the plot also basically tries to bend the rules of romantic comedies but can’t help swinging back into the norm. All three films are frankly decent and a fun watch.
In the end Friends with Benefits is a well crafted story about two people who don’t want to open up emotionally but can’t help it. The film struggles in many areas, I think it was a mistake to have Dylan’s job be so easily obtainable, when we see him working he’s messing around on a web site, yet the film basically claims he’s a highly sought and highly paid asset. Well it looks like any thirteen year old could do his job. I think that is a mistake in a society where most people can’t get a job. Still the cast and over all script just pushes through most of the problems.