Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) think it's going to be easy to add the simple act of sex to their friendship, despite what Hollywood romantic comedies would have them believe. They soon discover however that getting physical really does always lead to complications.
When Dylan (Justin Timberlake) first met Jamie (Mila Kunis) she was climbing on an airport carousel in a cute frantic moment. Having recruited Dylan to interview in New York from Los Angeles for a position as art director for GQ Magazine she wanted to impress him; instead, she made a lasting impression. Their meet-cute had all of the components to begin your standard romantic comedy. The catch, neither one of them has any interest in dating the other. The expected flirtatious moments that should occur do not, Jamie and Dylan become friends--and only friends. Then that time occurs, as the title suggests. After spending a great deal of time together as friends, learning about each others lives and having an actual bond of friendship that is to be admired and desired by anyone, a drunken evening watching a bad romantic comedy begets the beginning of their friends with benefits relationship. This is also the moment the film gets interesting.
Jamie and Dylan are easy to admit they are damaged. Neither one has had any success with relationships, and both have recently broken up with yet another partner. Dylan uses the metaphor of playing tennis to how he thinks sexual relationships should occur. You have sex, shake hands, and move off the court. There are no feelings involved, no issues, just a pleasurable time where you walk away feeling good--no damage required. The agreement is then made to have a physical relationship while maintaining their friendship and when one wants to stop it will stop, and they will remain close friends. It is Dylan's co-worker Tommy (Woody Harrelson) who bluntly states the obvious, that these types of agreements never work out because feelings always get in the way. Yes, feelings do get in the way but not exactly in the manner you may expect.
The twist in Friends With Benefits may not be the most shocking but it does not need to be in order to make the film enjoyable to watch. The plot is simple, and the outcome likely. It is still a very funny look at this type of relationship, especially with the influx of familial problems the story addresses for both Dylan and Jamie. Everyone is damaged, everyone has baggage, but when you find the one person who you can share all of your baggage with and they still want to have coffee with you on Saturday morning you do not let them go--be it as a friend, or a lover. This is a movie about a friendship that blurs the line of friendship time and time again, resulting in more than just having sex without feeling, but having feelings without sex.
There is no debating the attractiveness of the two stars in Friends With Benefits. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are both "pretty" people, no help required. Whether their attractiveness will translate into onscreen chemistry in a movie mostly about sex and the development of feelings, or lack thereof, is the debatable question. Lucky for Director Will Gluck his two stars have enough chemistry together for two movies.
Timberlake's Dylan and Kunis' Jamie have to pull off more than just a sexual chemistry, they have to be friends as well. On both fronts they succeed, elevating Friends With Benefits beyond the mediocre romantic comedy where one cannot really imagine these two people establishing their relationship outside the make believe world of the cineplex. Dylan and Jamie are believable as friends, as well as lovers. The lovers part is especially interesting because their romantic encounters are not romantic. This is a no feelings allowed purely sexual relationship, and being honest is something they both can be comfortable with given the circumstances. Neither has to worry about hurting the others feelings, or refraining from informing them about what they are doing wrong and how they can improve. Resulting in a comedy of sexual errors, and possibly the most honest rendering of a real sexual relationship--after the candles have collected dust, the sexy lingerie is tucked into the back of the drawer, and shaving your legs is no longer a requirement but a luxurious occurrence. Not to mention those moments of leg cramps and having to go to the bathroom, mid-coitus.
The only reason all of the in-your-face sexuality, and unpretentious acts work without alienating a viewer or making the whole thing a bit uncomfortable to watch is the easy way Timberlake and Kunis react to one another. They make it fun to watch them attempt to have this type of relationship, while everyone watching knows that what they have started will lead to the strongest "real" relationship two people can have.
July 22, 2011
1 hour 47 minutes