Friends With Benefits
Directed by Will Gluck
Starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson
Release Date: July 22, 2011
The imitation of previous romantic comedies has been extremely widespread, comparable to an artistic pandemic. It is almost as if Hollywood directors and screenwriters are admonishing their audiences that original ideas and concepts are a scarcity in the contemporary comedic landscape. The exactness to which certain films resemble other certain films encapsulates the mental impotence that is pervading and perpetuating in the Hollywood studios. No imminent sign indicates this hardship from ceasing. But instead of placing a profoundly effective emphasis on discovering new ideas that would beneficially propel comedic narratives toward a new and improved comedic dimension, individuals who are responsible for the construction of such films find such an endeavor to be fruitless. Most should be opposed to forking over ten dollars for a ticket to see an uninspiring film that prides itself on its unoriginality.
Curiosity, though, does arise because we are a culture fascinated with nothing more than the hot and handsome, the sexy and sophisticated (in this case it is Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis). Our tendencies are slighted toward watching these individuals sexually get it on, endure emotional hardships and sexually get it on again. America audiences are easily enticed by a new cinematic pairing. We desperately hope they can gel like past comedic duos (Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Hepburn again, Steve Martin and John Candy) and lignite the screen with something fresh, taking our minds off of a horrifyingly regurgitated narrative, which, evidently, was last seen earlier this year when a despicable pairing (Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman) attempted to express sexual passion with no strings attached.
Mr. Timberlake has a more pleasing screen presence than Mr. Kutcher, which immediately makes Friends With Benefits a more tolerable film than No Strings Attached. The charm, effortless charisma and talent that Timberlake displays at every given opportunity are scrumptious. Even when he is seen here pouncing round half naked in chic New York City apartments Timberlake has a confidence that few young leading men today harbor. His composure easily allows us to believe that his character, Dylan, is a self-infatuated man who is capable of making a smooth transition from a small-time art-directing job in Los Angeles, where he specializes in blogs, to the Big Apple’s GQ headquarters just as he’s capable of moving beyond a recently broken relationship.
Once in New York City he makes really good acquaintances with a GQ representative named Jamie (Kunis). She’s a beautiful and assured young woman who happens to influence Dylan’s decision on whether or not he decides to take the art-directing job at GQ. The two have more in common with each other than either of them ever had with their previous boyfriends or girlfriends. Both are fed up with continual betrayal that is almost always evident in a cinematic relationship. They even see some of the falsities that are usually concealed in relationships, as does the gay sportswriter at GQ played amusingly by Woody Harrelson.
So being that they no longer have the emotional capacity to endure further heartaches or the faith that is necessary in a relationship that hopes at attain emotional prosperity, Dylan and Jamie both agree to participate in a relationship that only encourages sex. And lots of it. There will be no cuddling after the act is performed, no affection and absolutely no commitments. Hard to believe that they believe such a relationship could possibly work. Both of them are eager to plunge into a world that is devoid of faith. Good luck.
Director Will Gluck, whose previous film, Easy A, wowed us with its unerring view of the pugnacious and ruthless world of high school, looses us when he tries to extend his vision to encompass more than the no strings attached relationship. In Easy A he used his talents to take a foray into the confines of the lives of ignorant and absentminded teenagers. That’s what his view was limited to, and it worked. In Friends With Benefits he struggles to find balance between the comedic and the dramatic. The scenes involving Timberlake and Kunis (who show some chemistry) running a mock should provide this movie with plenty of narrative. But Gluck, who wrote the script with Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, has too many other subplots going on. Richard Jenkins shows up as Dylan’s disillusioned father struggling to come to terms with reality. And Patricia Clarkson plays Jamie’s mother who tries to subdue her woes with an abundance of alcohol. These two characters could easily branch out and have movies of their own. Friends With Benefits suffers from director Gluck’s impaired vision to coherently map out a movie that is unique and self-assured.
Rating: **1/2 out of *****