Directed by: Will Gluck
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Richard Jenkins, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson
Review: It has become standard practice in romantic comedies to take the normal clichés of most romantic comedies, point them out in the movie, and then do them anyway but make it so the characters are doing them to intentionally be cliché, as if that takes away their cliché-ness. Movies like ‘Easy A’ have done this to success, but ‘Friends With Benefits’ doesn’t quite get there. While this movie starts off pretty awful, it finds its footing later and becomes somewhat enjoyable, despite its formulaic nature.
Dylan (Timberlake) is a hot shot art editor for a blog site in Las Angeles who is seemingly coming in to his own in his career. Jamie (Kunis) is a headhunter who ‘always gets her man.’ Jamie gets a job from GQ to find a new art editor and discovers that Dylan is the perfect man for the job and she will get him for GQ. This is a great opportunity for Dylan, although it means leaving his hometown of LA and his family. After an all day interview and showing Dylan some sights, he decides he is going to take the job and uproots his life to move to New York.
Once in New York, workaholic Dylan realizes that he doesn’t know many people or places so he asks Jamie to help him out. As is always the case, these two become great friends, apparently not realizing how attractive each other are and telling themselves they are “not interested in each other like that.” While I completely believe this is possible, two extremely attractive people who are best friends and they don’t see each other that way? That just doesn’t seem realistic to me. At one point, before copulating for the first time, the two discuss if they think each other are attractive and don’t believe the other when they point out attractive features. In a city like New York is it really possible for someone like Mila Kunis to not know she is attractive? When she has a job in which she leverages her attractiveness and would most likely get told how attractive she is all the time, I find this all hard to believe.
Regardless, they become ‘friends with benefits’ and it actually works. They keep jealousy in check when they date others and remain friends through the whole process. It doesn’t become complicated until, you guessed it, Dylan invites Jamie to meet his family back in LA and they all see what he can’t, that they are perfect for each other.
The typical storyline plays out from there, they like each other, one of them screws it up, someone talks sense into them (usually family members) and they try to work it out. We all know this is coming with a ‘chick-flick’ but that isn’t the point, the point is how much we like the characters and how much we enjoy the ride. While the actors involved may be a bit more talented than these roles allow, we still don’t get as attached to them as we might other characters. Specifically, the Jamie character as her backstory is spotty and doesn’t help us sympathize with her (neither does her horrible parent played by Patricia Clarkson).
I rarely go into chick flicks expecting much and I am usually right. The actors involved here show some pretty good talent that stretches beyond the material they were given. They have taken the friends with benefits premise and used it more successfully than a movie like ‘No Strings Attached,’ but it still lives in a world that doesn’t exist. Every chick flick is compared to ‘When Harry Met Sally’ because the characters in that movie lived in the real world in which we could all relate. We aren’t all high level head hunters or big times execs at GQ so it’s hard to relate to these people who have glamorous lives and limitless resources at their disposal. Despite the fact that Dylan is referred to as a ‘workaholic,’ he seems to find a way to always have time to hang out and BS with people. It is these types of things that make this movie hard to relate to.
That said, it does provide quite a few good laughs. Nothing gut-busting, but ultimately provides an enjoyable experience from a comedy perspective. However, that was ruined by the fact that the plot was hard to relate to and unbelievable all the same (not to mention that in all his time in New York it never gets cold).
I would say if you’re looking for a diversion and enjoy the occasional predictable chick-flick, then it is worth your time, otherwise, wait until video.