Friends with Benefits has been teased and probably rightfully so for looking and sounding an awful lot like a recent film with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher called No Strings Attached. Both films are R-rated, raunchy, and ask the question: can men and women partake in a strictly sexual relationship? While the premise is essentially the same, these are two very different flicks at the end of the day. The only thing they have in common is that they are both pretty good romantic comedies. In today’s day and age, that’s quite a feat. The film, directed by Easy A’s Will Gluck, is full of pop culture references, songs, and situations. It also has a keen eye for romantic comedies and has seen them before and knows how they work and operate.
Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake star in this flick as two young good looking people who have horrible luck in relationships. They decide to retire from dating and strictly focus on their careers. Of course, they have needs, just like any other man and woman do, and decide to have a relationship that is all about sex, nothing more. They will have no emotional connection to each other or do any of the usual relationship habits. They just have sex, hang out, and have fun. Of course, being friends with benefits is easier said than done. What happens when one person gets too attached? How do you act and what are the rules?
Besides Kunis and Timberlake, actors Richard Jenkins, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Patricia Clarkson, and Woody Harrelson lend their considerable talents to this project. It’s a great ensemble cast, much like Gluck’s Easy A had. Gluck has a certain style, and both Easy A and Friends with Benefits have his stamp all over them. They are fast paced, witty, sweet, and also raunchy when the time calls for it. He makes films that are accessible to young teens and young adults. With all that being said, this film lies on the shoulders of Timberlake and Kunis. They have incredible chemistry together on screen, and they are the reason that the film works as well as it does. Timberlake is slowly but surely growing on me. This is probably one of his best performances I’ve seen. It’s much better than his work in the dreadful, Bad Teacher.
The sex scenes are also awkward, in a good way, comical, and oddly honest. The film also reveals a heart in the third act that adds a nice little touch to the proceedings. Because this movie has seen other romantic comedies, it has some good lighthearted fun with its premise, especially the ending involving a flash mob. These characters are not just friends with benefits, they are best friends that are relying on each other and understand who they really are. In a romantic comedy, you want to care about the characters and root for them to end up together before the credits roll. Friends with Benefits accomplishes that and then some. Will Gluck is making some very interesting films that are going to be remembered in the same breath as the films of John Hughes from the 1980’s.
How should you see it? On the big screen