Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is done with relationships. Jamie (Mila Kunis) decides to stop buying into the Hollywood clichés of true love. When the two become friends they decide to try something new and take advantage of their mutual attraction – but without any emotional attachment. Physical pleasure without the entanglements. Sounds easy enough for two logical adults, right? Not so much. They soon realize romantic comedy stereotypes might exist for a reason.
At a time when mainstream comedy has been overtaken by rambling, pleasingly sloppy Judd Apatow-type improv-fests, director Will Gluck has been quietly doing his part to remind folks that sticking to the script and having a destination in mind can be fun, too. Much like his earlier Easy A
, Friends with Benefits
is a clever, just-this-side-of-painfully-hip relationship comedy that knows when to linger over a punch line and when not to break stride. A few minor speed bumps aside (filmmakers: can we can it with the musical montages, already?), it goes down extremely easy. The story in a nutshell: frustrated by the lack of viable dating options in their vicinity, two platonic friends (Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake) decide to embark on a casual, no-strings-attached physical relationship. However, as a briefly glimpsed clip from Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
foreshadows, things don't stay simple for very long. As opposed to the standard PG-13 rom com, things get surprisingly raunchy here, but organically so, with the slight snafus and briefly major embarrassments that should ring true to most relationship veterans. As in Easy A
, Gluck has assembled a fantastically game supporting cast, including Woody Harrelson, Jenna Elfman, and especially the great Richard Jenkins and Patricia Clarkson as two vastly different parental figures, but it's really the two leads' show. Whether arguing the virtues of the band Kriss Kross or engaging in activities unprintable on an all-ages website, Timberlake and Kunis display the snappy back-and-forth of a classic cinematic coupling. When they're cooking, you don't want to be anywhere else. --Andrew Wright