daniel cohen reviews the rom-com starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis …
Plot: After becoming fast friends, relationship disasters Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) add sex, and only sex, to their friendship. But it soon complicates their relationship, and possibly threatens their friendship.
Friends With Benefits follows all the tropes we’ve come to expect from the romantic comedy. Workaholic protagonists…check. Sex-obsessed single mom … check. Cute kid … check. Gay friend … check. While we see all the clichés, Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis and the rest of cast induce enough charm to elevate it above the run of the mill Rom-Com.
The first fifteen minutes are kind of rough. Mila Kunis is trying way too hard to break away from the typical ‘I want my Prince Charming’ type female lead. She comes on a little strong. Fortunately, she’s a talented enough actress that the character grows on you pretty quickly.
The beginning in general is really annoying. The glamour of New York City is shoved down my throat, and the film desperately tries to say, ‘Hey, we aren’t like every other romantic comedy. We are going to make fun of these clichés. Aren’t we clever?’ But to the film’s credit (much like the Mila Kunis character) it settles into its appropriate genre.
In fact, a lot of the problems I had with this movie were my initial reactions to whenever a new character was introduced. Woody Harrelson comes in as Tommy, Dylan’s gay co-worker. His first scene is just a volcanic eruption of gay one-liners. Harrelson was like a gatling gun of gay humor. But after that initial scene, you come to like him, and he’s a bit more subtle. It’s the same thing with Jamie’s man crazy mom played by Patricia Clarkson. The first encounter is a little strong, but she settles into a more grounded character. It goes back to the casting. Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson are talented enough to make bad dialogue and clichéd stereotypes work. There’s also a similar scene at the beginning with Emma Stone. Her dialogue is horrible, but she makes it work.
The one constant though from beginning to end was Justin Timberlake. He’s awesome, and couldn’t be more charming and likable. He is the glue to this movie. What’s great about his performance is that he plays an every man. For someone like Timberlake, that’s hard to pull off, but he does it with ease. Sure, he sings a little bit, but he still seems like an average guy. After this film, Bad Teacher earlier this summer, and last year’s The Social Network, Timberlake is showing a lot of range.
One of the things that did piss me off, though, was the ending. I understand there was only one way this movie was going to end, but the setting of where it happened, and the song choice was so telegraphed early on, it was kind of frustrating. They do add a clever ingredient to the last scene though, making up for it a little bit.
All the little things that can derail a movie of this ilk didn’t happen. The sex scenes were in good taste, and actually quite funny. And for a Rated-R Rom-Com, they didn’t venture into cheap laughs or shock humor. But most importantly, all the characters were likable, and the two leads had good chemistry.
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)