Headhunter Jamie (Mila Kunis) brings Dylan (Justin Timberlake) to New York for a job at GQ. The two become friends and inevitably end up in bed together. Just as friends but of course the situation becomes complicated when feelings get in the way.
There has always been the debate as to whether men and women can just be friends and if we have not been in the situation ourselves, we all know someone (or someone who knows some who knows someone… You get the idea) who has been in the situation where we thinking hooking up with a friend is a great idea.
Kunis and Timberlake have great chemistry together (wasn’t there a rumour that they were dating?), and while neither one have had that much experience in the movies (TV and music respectively) but they are strong enough to carry this film. Kunis is damn cute, and a girlie movie character that women can relate to; she is not all giggles and swooning, and she does not stand for crap from any of them men in her life. Timberlake proves that he is more than a one trick pony and steps away from the caricatured characters he has played of late in Bad Teacher and The Social Network and begins to show some real nuance and promise in a more true to life role.
Patricia Clarkson has a sweet little turn as Jamie’s slightly loopy mother, and Richard Jenkins’s performance as Dylan’s father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s gives the film – and Timberlake’s character – a little more depth
Friends with Benefits does not break any new ground in its premise; the difference with this film is that it does not take itself too seriously. There is a whole plot point where Jamie and Dylan send up the genre by obsessively watching, hating and deconstructing the movie within the movie – a ridiculous OTT romantic comedy starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones. The problem with this though, is that this film was always going to risk falling into the same traps as the films it lampoons.
At 109 minutes, the film is rather long, and there are far too many references to cool Apple products and the trappings of wealth and success. Also, it seemed that flash mobs were over and done with – having first gained popularity in 2003 – but this film uses them… Twice.
In all, Friends with Benefits does not do anything new, but Kunis and Timberlake – as well as New York and LA – look good doing it. The script is actually OK, and it is definitely watchable.