Movie Review: FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS Is Harder Than It Looks

Can Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis navigate the waters of sex without commitment? And will you care?

There are but a few types of folks who can endure this eponymously titled, offhand, yet hands-on arrangement in which casual sex minus commitment and emotional attachment are involved:

1.Those who are “out to lunch”.
2. Prostitutes.
3. Those who are “out to lunch with a prostitute”.

An introduction to our similarly mercurial leads, played by Justin (of all trades) Timberlake and promising starlet on the rise Mila Kunis, begins all business. Jamie is an east coast headhunter on assignment for the next big GQ Art Director and has a small-time Los Angeles based Art Blogger, Dylan, in her professional crosshairs. If there’s a doubt in your mind now that he doesn’t end up accepting the offer, huff a goddamn smelling salt. Kunis’ wardrobe is comprised of low-cut tops and high-cut bottoms, and they gave her a ridiculous sense of humor powered by the center of her nervous system. Tighter than the character’s clothing is her wit, and this is how she holds Dylan and the audience in the palm of her hand.

Predictable as it may be, their respective pesky, impenetrable feelings-walls take shape upon Dylan’s relocation to The Big Apple and we witness the dreaded, blundering “I don’t LIKE like you LIKE that” dance that makes one’s skin crawl. Thankfully, what makes this brand far more palatable than its ugly second cousin, No Strings Attached, is that the main characters in this offering are cognizant of the fact that they’re not only fucked up and damaged in the love department, but that they’re not the first two humans in the world to have this sort of cliche un-romance. The film works because these traits are executed in a conceivable manor, and the credit should be given to director/co-writer, Will Gluck, and his knack for right-on casting.

Gluck’s name might sound familiar if you caught Easy A last year, or if you’ve read BAD team members singing its praises ever since (because it’s the kind of great that lends itself to multiple viewings). Supporters/addicts of the former will delight in a couple nods to it throughout FWB as well. On the topic, I’d like to take this opportunity to conveniently forget Fired Up! ever happened and that I may have rented it twice.

The magnetism between Kunis and Timberlake is of the loin-warming, fiery and palpable sort. Frankly, her whole sold as every breathing man’s dream lady schtick agrees with me here, more so than when she displayed similar quirks as Rachel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. However, this also marks the second occasion in recent history where she’s hollered from the cliff tops an emasculating, “PUSSY!” or “I CAN SEE YOUR VAGINA FROM HERE!” toward our male leads. Don’t pull a Bay and recycle footage, guys, at least distract us with different scenery or derogatory female body part.

Patricia Clarkson and Richard Jenkins inspire much laughter as key parts of the equally impressive ensemble cast as Jaime’s mother and Dylan’s father. Enter matching mommy/daddy issues and their cynicism is explained. There’s an all too spoiler-y WTF curve ball thrown to us here regarding Jenkins’ character worthy of discussing after you’ve seen the film that visibly chafed me and my seatmates.

Clarkson is essentially a looser, less sober, more irresponsible shadow of her role as Olive’s mother in Easy A, but with each breath came another impeccably timed, quick-witted quip and I soon refrained from—as the kids say, “being a little bitch about it”. Her charming on-screen presence is effortless and timeless.

Woody Harrelson emerges in a notably hysterical performance as Tommy, Dylan’s GQ colleague and resplendently gay sports writer. He steals each of his scenes with a laugh out loud offering of uncouth, quotable relationship wisdom for Dylan in the form of pearls he’d rather see, well, that’s personal.

It’s clear that Gluck and Co. were attempting to avoid the usual romantic comedy tropes, and for the most part they prosper—slippery slope alert. Other times it comes off as a slothful defense mechanism shouting, “THIS IS NOT AN OLD HAT!” from the high rise rooftop in the big city where Jaime retreats to get away from it all (read: all of the cell phone reception, not the triteness).

Warning: This film is not for the anti-romantic or lactose intolerant as you will most certainly unearth some cheese. The good news is that it’s sparse, crumbled, and targeted toward crackers.

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