Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Movie with Abe: Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits
Directed by Will Gluck
Released July 22, 2011

It’s hard to review this movie without comparing it to “No Strings Attached,” the film with a very similar plot starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher which was released this past January. Both purport to tell the story of what happens when two best friends decide to add sex to the mix without embarking upon a romantic relationship, only to discover, as expected, that such a feat is hard to keep going without feelings getting in the way. To its credit, “Friends with Benefits” does a much better job than its January predecessor, crafting an entertaining if not necessarily memorable romantic comedy.

Unlike the former film, where Portman and Kutcher’s characters simply get together after not having seen each other for a number of years, there’s actually a friendship from which more emerges for Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis). The two meet when head hunter Jamie works overtime to get Dylan to take a new job at GQ, showing the California boy New York over the course of one day to sell him on the city. The two quickly develop a platonic bond that only morphs into more after they both can’t seem to find a suitable partner.

What makes “Friends with Benefits” work are its two stars, who play marvelously off of each other. Timberlake continues to prove that he’s a good fit for the big screen in this highly enjoyable role, while Kunis has found a perfect follow-up to her breakout part in “Black Swan” that allows her enormous potential to create an endearing, sympathetic protagonist. It’s believable that the two could have trouble finding love due to their own personal hang-ups, and it’s fun to see them try their hands at an unsustainable romance complete with plenty of ups and downs.

When it’s not just the two of them, “Friends with Benefits” features an able supporting cast, with varying degrees of relevancy. Patricia Clarkson’s Lorna, mother to Jamie, and Woody Harrelson’s Tommy, Dylan’s very overtly gay co-worker, seem rather randomly inserted into the story at opportune times, while Jenna Elfman, Nolan Gould, and Richard Jenkins serve a clearer purpose as Dylan’s sister, nephew, and father, respectively. Emma Stone and Andy Samberg also appear in amusing cameos at the start of the film as mismatched partners for Dylan and Jamie. Ultimately, it’s a fun ride that doesn’t quite achieve greatness but does provide a good deal of harmless laughs.


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