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Review: Friends With Benefits

Jess Pang

Tue Aug 23 2011


HE is a successful LA-based website art director with a hot body. She is a sassy corporate headhunter from New York with a charming personality. They are both succeeding in their careers but failing in the love field. Kindred spirits, perhaps?

Jamie (Mila Kunis) is an executive recruiter who lures Dylan (Justin Timberlake) to the East Coast to take up a dream job at a GQ magazine in New York.

Dylan feels lost in the bustling city, but Jamie tries her very best to reassure him the Big Apple is the place to be. She tours him around the city; together they climb a skyscraper, dance in a flash mob in Times Square and run into snowboarder Shaun White (who plays a comically cocky version of himself) under the Brooklyn Bridge.

In time, they begin hanging out regularly and share plenty of laughs over the gag-worthy portrayals of true love in Hollywood movies.

Eventually the dynamic and naughty pair decide to begin a deliciously sexy experiment by adding emotion-free sex to their friendship.

Just when the two think they’ve perfected the art of sharing physical pleasure while living parallel lives, pesky emotions begin to sneak into the not-so-simple best-laid plan, fracturing the fine line between sex partners and real couples.

Screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman pitched the story of Friends With Benefits with the goal of creating a post-modern, R-rated, anti-romantic comedy about “the death of romance in the age of hook-ups”. However, romance is not completely out of the picture in Friends With Benefits. Instead, the film follows in the rom-com tradition, but in a slightly less conventional way.

Director Will Gluck (whose previous works include Easy A and Fired Up) sees Friends With Benefits as the modern version of the legendary Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy love story. With rapid-fire banter and dynamic and flirtatious chemistry, Jamie and Dylan are a fresh spin on Hepburn and Tracy.

Be my friend? Timberlake's role requires him to spent a lot of time sans shirt

Be my friend? Timberlake's role requires him to spent a lot of time sans shirt, apparently

They drive the zippy plotlines like a roller coaster by slamming lines and tossing cynical jokes. The movie is filled with conversations; there is almost no gasp for breath, not even in the bedroom scenes.

As the film’s leads, Kunis and Timberlake lift the big screen well. With Kunis’ promising performance in Black Swan and Timberlake’s outstanding acting in The Social Network behind them, Friends With Benefits has given them a chance to prove they can be more than supporting cast.

Kunis and Timberlake give smooth and natural performances as Jamie and Dylan. Despite Kunis’ petite frame, her invigorating and vibrant energy fills the screen like a firecracker. Timberlake plays the charming beau perfectly, as always.

But even more credit goes to the gold supporting cast; Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson and Jenna Elfman.

Clarkson plays Jamie’s “cool hippie mom” Lorna, who snaps the killer line “so my daughter is just your slam piece?” at Timberlake when she walks in on him and her daughter in bed.

Eflman plays Dylan’s elder sister Annie who lives in LA with their father, played by Jenkins. The award-winning actor has again invested brilliant acting as a divorced old man who spends his time reminiscing about lost love and walking around without pants.

There is also Harrelson, who injects quirk and openly flirty humour (“are you sure you’re not gay?”) into the movie by playing Tommy, the bawdy, homosexual sports editor at GQ.

Within Friends With Benefits’ thin storyline are real questions about the possibility of romantic love between friends of the opposite sex, and the prospect of having to settling down. In this fast-paced society, how harmful could a quickie or two be?

Besides relationship issues, the movie also reflects on family values when Dylan is forced to confront his father’s Alzheimer Disease, while Jamie has to cope with her emotionally damaged mother.


All in all, a lewd, allusive urban love story which would fulfill the appetite of rom-com fans. But don’t expect more than No Strings Attached or Love and Other Drugs, as they are all very much the same tale with the same predictable ending.

Verdict: Watch if you want a good laugh or wish to see JT singing in bed, clothes off.

Friends with Benefits is now showing in cinemas across Australia.