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Friends with Benefits
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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.
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Kunis gives Timberlake a fast paced tour of NY, perhaps one of the best sells for Manhattan I have seen in a long time. The movie verbally condemns Hollywood's romantic comedies while ironically creating one identical to it. With some quick character build up, the film goes to a scene where Timberlake and Kunis decide that they will have sex without the emotional baggage while swearing on a Bible app. No complications, just sex. Guess how that turns out?
Woody Harrelson plays a gay sports editor who is not shy about being gay. Woody gives Timberlake love advice, "It's not who you want to spend Friday night with, but who you want to spend all day Saturday with."
The sex scenes between Kunis and Timberlake are more comical than romantic. Timberlake likes to keep his socks on and sneezes after an orgasm, and Kunis is a screamer. Patricia Clarkson plays Kunis' super hip mother, who has never really told her daughter who her father was. In her first few minutes he was Greek, Puerto Rican, or Russian...she is sure he was Eurasian.
The dialogue is fast and witty. Kunis did a background check on a guy she dated.
Timberlake responds: "Did you do a background check on me?"
Kunis:"How could you possibly max out an Old Navy card?"
Timberlake: "I was just out of college and really into cargo pants."
In spite of the adult themes, the movie has a lighthearted chick flick Disney quality to it. The acting was good. The movie was very clever. If you liked "No Strings Attached" you might find this one on par or slightly better.
F-bomb,sex, brief nudity, deals with Alzheimer's. 5 star chick flick
"Friends with Benefits" surprised me. I don't understand why Justin Timberlake is famous - what is remarkable about him, really? - and Mila Kunis does nothing for me. We live in the age of decline of the Romantic Comedy. "Friends with Benefits" was not the forgettable, rote, mass-produced studio product I expected. It was actually really good.
"Friends with Benefits" began really fast, and I found myself bobbing along on the script's energy. I noticed how much I was enjoying it and I kept waiting for the film to drop the ball, to let me down, to betray itself, to fall into predictable clichéd traps. That didn't happen for quite a while, and the film's failings were slow in coming, minor, and didn't ruin the film.
What "Friends with Benefits" does right it does very, very right. The script is amazing. There are jokes that you'd need some literacy and maturity to understand. They fly right by, no pause for the viewer to laugh, or to google the references, before the next one-liner or trenchant observation rolls down the chute. Our culture has been so dumbed down that hearing a joke that one would have to have some knowledge of history or culture or even just the front page of the newspaper to understand amazed and gratified me.
The movie's strong point is that it is so fast; that's also a bit of a weak point. Legendary director Frank Capra said that "sometimes your story has to stop and you just let your audience look at your people. You want your audience to like them...these scenes are quite important to a film. When the audience rests and they look at the people, they begin to smile." "Friends with Benefits" is so frenetic, it never creates a memorable screen moment where Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) do nothing but look movie-star lovely and get under our skin.
Richard Jenkins works some powerful mojo. He's a character actor, older, bland-looking and bald, but in every movie I've seen him in lately, especially so in "Eat Pray Love," he seems to be visiting from a different, better movie, and I want, after the movie I'm watching is over, to watch the superior film from which Jenkins has visited. In "Friends with Benefits" Jenkins plays Dylan's father who is suffering the early stages of Alzheimer's. He is funny, profound, arresting and truly lovable. What is Jenkins doing? Whatever it is, more actors should do it.
Jenna Elfman, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, Nolan Gould and Masi Oka are all very, very good in supporting roles. Clarkson, as Jamie's mother, delivers a liner about Jamie's father that made me laugh out loud.
On the surface, "Friends with Benefits" looks like too many other, lesser movies. It's not. It's a really good, worthwhile film.