Romantic comedies for women are basically just like a “friend with benefits.” Women like movies, that’s why they go see the sappy ones, and the romantic comedies. The romantic comedy has all the elements of what a woman wants in a man, the movies tell them exactly the type of things they want to hear from that perfect partner, they use them for that purpose then leave them at the theater and look for everything in the movie that made them swoon in another person. Action movies and porno are the same for men, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. Most romantic comedies don’t work because they tend to very generic and formulaic. When they work, it’s because they pull out all the stops, go raunchy and have a certain attitude. FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS has the attitude to make this simple story work and be appealing to both men and women.
Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is a sought after blog runner from LA visiting New York to interview for a prestigious position for GQ thanks to talent scout Jamie (Mila Kunis). Dylan is hesitant about movie to New York partly because of the people and partly because of a fear of ruining his new job and uprooting his life in LA. Jamie convinces him to move and become his go to girl for lunches and parties until one night they decide to move their friendship up…only slightly. They make a mutual agreement to use each other for sex only so as not to ruin their friendship. I know that’s got to be the most original rom com set up you’ve ever read- one that you haven’t already seen this year too I bet.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS set up is NOT original- in fact it’s almost the same identical set up as NO STRINGS ATTACHED except with a different cast and different backgrounds for the characters. However, I believe FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS is the funnier of the two. In many ways it has certain elements in common with LOVE & OTHER DRUGS as well. My biggest problem with rom coms is their tendency to be prudish and skimping on the R rated raunchy comedy. FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS is not above some great F-bombs, crude sex jokes and plenty of Timberlake/Kunis butt shots.
There are plenty of other laughs aside from the crude sex jokes and that’s what makes FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS as funny and enjoyable as it is, including an ongoing gag involving Sean White. It is however, not without its drag down moments, most of them lying towards the end when it starts to get a little less fun, sappier and when the characters give in to the drama of the situation. The good news is that Timberlake and Kunis give the film better performances than the film probably deserves. Jenna Elfman, Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson all give the supporting roles an unexpected lift as well.
The only surprise you’ll get out of this one is if you just had no hopes at all of enjoying it and find it to be much more charming and funny than anticipated. I had my reservations about it and expected a few light chuckles here and there, but ending up laughing out loud at several moments. This will not shock anyone with an out of nowhere revelation at the end, or a bizarre tragedy ham-fisted in to cheat the audience, it’s just straight forward and predictable romantic comedy affair. The jokes are what keep catching you sitting back on your heels as well as the chemistry and comedic timing of Timberlake and Kunis.
Don’t let the trailers or previous rom com preconceptions fool you, FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS isn’t one of those cheap dirty one night stands or day after hangover regrets. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have undeniable chemistry on screen; the script is sharp and hysterical at times, but ventures into slightly bland and all too familiar tropes towards the end. Here you’ll also find a great supporting cast and plenty of charm to go around. If you want a fun night filled with some fun yet dirty laughs FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS is the comedy you’ll want to have a few late night booty calls with.