Director: Will Gluck
There are so many romantic comedies nowadays that “Friends with Benefits” is a romantic comedy about how life is not like a romantic comedy. I think my brain is beginning to hurt.
Justin Timberlake (who seems to have honed his ‘everyman hunky nerd’ shtick to perfection) plays Dylan, an emotionally shy guy from Los Angeles who is brought to New York to work for GQ by the brash headhunter Jamie (Mila Kunis, whose star has risen dramatically after her turn in “Black Swan”). They soon form a strong bond but, after various disasters in their respective love lives, decide that they shouldn’t date: instead, they should just have sex whilst remaining best friends. At first the ‘relationship that isn’t a relationship’ seems like a good one, but romance soon starts to rear its ugly head.
This is a film that very much tries to have its cake and eat it: it’s trying to make fun of the romantic film whilst still clearly following the rules of the genre. Whilst this often makes for some super smart observations you can’t help feel that it still doesn’t go far enough to bring it closer to reality. The characters are all super rich (an affliction suffered by many a Hollywood movie) and look fabulous and it’s hard not to think of everything as being your typical Hollywood romcom.
But Kunis and Timberlake do have a good chemistry with the latter having some fun and both are supported well by the likes of Woody Harrelson and Richard Jenkins. Gluck’s direction is workmanlike though he makes some good use of the New York setting and manages to put together a couple of set-pieces (based around flash mobs) that are well done alongside a clever opening.
If it displayed more courage, this could have been a fascinating modern American movie. Instead it’s a smart but still rather ordinary comedy that is entertaining but not ground-breaking.