Friends with Benefits is basically a beach-read romance novel come to life on the big screen. Not that there’s anything wrong with a little summer heat. If the premise sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it is. Just seven months ago, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher brought us No Strings Attached– a movie about a couple of old friends who agree to engage in a purely physical relationship. Friends with Benefits stars Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake as two new friends who try to convince each other that their physical relationship is merely a fleeting bonus to their comfortable, otherwise platonic friendship. See the difference?
Fortunately for chick flick fanatics, the two romcoms are different enough to overcome the inevitable comparisons. Personally, I think I like Friends with Benefits slightly more, for two reasons: Justin. Timberlake. The guy just continues to impress on so many levels – acting, singing, dancing, comedy. It almost seems unfair.
Timberlake plays Dylan, a cute graphic designer wunderkind from L.A. who is wooed to NYC by a cute headhunter named Jamie (Kunis), who wants him to take a high-profile job with GQ. The two quickly bond over former relationship woes and a genuine friendship develops – with benefits that inevitably lead to complications. Timberlake and Kunis are two disgustingly attractive individuals, but I’ll let that slide since the two do share some decent on-screen chemistry and their banter is generally entertaining.
Friends with Benefits is a traditional Hollywood romantic comedy that likes to make fun of the traditional Hollywood romantic comedy. It simultaneously disparages and embraces all the sap and miscues that make the genre what it is. The movie is appropriately rated ‘R’ because there’s a lot of sex in it – but there’s not much nudity (heck, it’s downright tame compared to Kunis’ fantasy sex scene with none other than Natalie Portman in Black Swan). And it’s not a raunchy comedy. It’s more of a dramedy, thanks to a moving sub-plot involving Dylan’s family (including Jenna Elfman as his single-mom sister and Richard Jenkins as his Alzheimer’s-stricken dad).
Like No Strings Attached, you can pretty much figure out how the movie’s gonna end. It may be a tad racy, but it’s not at all edgy, and it ties up neatly in a bow – in true Hollywood romantic comedy fashion. It’s kind of a shame that Hollywood has to keep making movies that reinforce the notion that a girl-boy friendship without intimacy is a farce and that intimacy can ruin an otherwise good relationship. But that’s way too serious a debate for summer. So go – enjoy. Friends with Benefits is a solid chick flick (for adults).