Friends with Benefits brings nothing new to the romantic comedy genre but it’s so much fun watching Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.
Volcanoes in 1997. Planet-killing meteors in 1998. Friends with benefits in 2011. Funny enough both films featured the stars of 2010’s Black Swan. Mila Kunis’s Black Swan castmate was seen just over six months earlier in No Strings Attached. Both films were being made at the same time. It’s just unfortunate that there isn’t more time between their releases. One is not a remake of the other–it’s just pure coincidence that similar films get a release date during the same calendar year.
Art director Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake) and headhunter Jamie Rellis (Mila Kunis) quickly become friends after Dylan movies to New York City. They both have emotional baggage and buy into the idea that having sex with each other will not ruin their friendship. Sorry but that’s not how it works. Eventually, they’re going to find themselves hitting every beat of the romantic comedy genre while falling for each other. You know how this is. When you’ve seen one film, you’ve seen them all. Dylan’s big idea to win Jamie back? A large musical number by way of a flash mom at Grand Central Station. It works, of course.
Jamie, of course, goes on several dates be she always ends up with Dylan again. When her mom, Lorna (Patricia Clarkson) cancels their Independence Day plans, she ends up going to meet Dylan’s family in Los Angeles. They are nothing more than close friends but you know it’s serious when meeting family gets involved. Dylan’s dad is battling Alzheimer’s. Jamie also meets Dylan’s sister Annie (Jenna Elfman) and nephew Sammy (Nolan Gould). However, Jamie overhears Dylan discussing her and it doesn’t go well. She leaves and ends it when Dylan finds her on top of the skyscraper. They go their separate ways but it isn’t until Dylan meets his dad at the airport that he realizes he is in love with Jamie.
Andy Samberg and Emma Stone are only here to drive the plot forward. We won’t really see them after the film’s opening because the film is not about them. They’re just here to serve as the emotional baggage of the leading characters. The appearances are so minor that neither name is in the end titles, just the cast crawl.
What Will Gluck seeks to do with Friends with Benefits is make a contemporary comedy with relationships similar to the great Tracy/Hepburn comedies. This isn’t an easy feat by any means. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are solid performers in their own right but it’s their chemistry that elevates the script. This is the main problem with seeing every possible romantic comedy ever: rom-coms live and die on their actors having chemistry. Thankfully, the duo have the chemistry. In fact, Dylan and Jamie frequently discuss romantic comedy movies and they eventually come to realize they are in a rom-com. At the end of the day, the film brings nothing new to the genre. But despite this, you can’t help but have fun watching the cast.
It’s a shame that we haven’t seen more films with the two actors together. I love their chemistry in the film and they could easily do another comedy that has nothing to do with Friends with Benefits. Come on, Hollywood–make it happen!
DIRECTOR: Will Gluck
SCREENWRITERS: Keith Merryman & David A. Newman and Will Gluck
CAST: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Nolan Gould, with Richard Jenkin and Woody Harrelson
Screen Gems released Friends with Benefits in theaters on July 22, 2011.
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