Does sex get in the way of a good friendship?
This film has a look at that question and tries to answer it in it’s own way. It is an anti romantic comedy, romantic comedy if you see what I mean. The tale is a simple one. It has been told many times before. In this case Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is a website art director living and working in Los Angeles. He is head hunted by Jamie (Mila Kunis) for a client, GQ magazine. After accepting the job Dylan moves to New York and develops a friendship with Jamie. Over drinks one night they ponder if friends can have sex with each other and still remain as friends. Basically a no strings, no emotions physical relationship. Neither of them want a romance as they are both damaged after previous failed relationships detailed at the start of the film. They try their theory as a one-off, feel awkward about it afterwords but soon start to make it a regular occurrence. Everything is going well but as it is with this type of film a reality check is just around the corner.
This is the second film I have seen by Director Will Gluck. His previous effort Easy A was one of my top films that I viewed last year and would have featured in my 2011 list if eligible (it was released in the UK in 2010). Easy A is a knowing take on the all American high school comedies from the likes of John Hughes. It is a fun film full of pop culture references and very, very funny. For Friends with Benefits he has kept the same basic formula and using his own screenplay has applied it to the romantic comedy genre. The two leads are typical American young adults steeped in pop culture from music, TV, internet and Movies. The dialogue is snappy and fun and brings to mind the screwball comedies of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
The theme of how life is not a romantic comedy is played to perfection. Jamie believes in true romance and that Prince Charming will one day come along. She knows this a stupid romantic ideal but she still hopes it may be true. There are several sequences where the leads are together watching a (fake) rom com movie. The film is deliberately corny, they both know it, but Jamie still can recite all the lines of dialogue.
The two leads and the supporting cast are all good. Justin Timberlake has been developing as an actor for some years now. From small roles in a variety of films up to second lead in the Social Network and Bad Teacher. In this role he is well cast as the leading man. There is a chemistry between him and Mila Kunis that is believable and sparkling. As noted before it felt a little like a throwback to the 1930’s. The lead pair came across like a modern-day Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey. The supporting cast are no slouches either. Jamie’s mother, played by Patricia Clarkson, is a free sprirted leftover of the sixties. Her role is small and is really there to act as the Guide and confidant in Jamie’s time of need. Woody Harrelson plays a larger than life gay sports reporter who is always trying to turn Dylan to the pleasures of man on man love. Again a small role but an absolutely classic piece of acting. Woody Harrelson has a tendency to steal a movie when he appears. No bad thing if it is as good as this.
The support cast for Dylan consist of a sister and Father. As a subplot the father, played by Richard Jenkins, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. The part is played with grace and restraint rather than over the top. The relationship between father and son was played very well from two actors on top of their game.
A good film with laugh out loud moments throughout and a real sense of not taking itself entirely seriously. recommended.