Title:Friends with Benefits
Director: Will Gluck (‘Easy A’)
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Woody Harrelson
People don’t always see the best and worst in themselves until they hit bottom and need other people to help them up. Such is the case in the new Screen Gems romantic comedy ‘Friends with Benefits,’ starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Their respective characters, Dylan and Jamie, not only try to help each other re-nativigate into the dating world after they’re both broken up with, but also come to realize what it feels like to be accepted, no matter what their personality is like.
‘Friends with Benefits’ follows Dylan as he travels to New York to interview for the job of art director at GQ. Jamie is the headhunter who helps Dylan land the position, and convinces him to take the job. While at first he’s hesitant to leave his blog and family in Los Angeles, he ultimately decides to take a chance and sign the two-year contract. Not knowing anyone else in New York, Dylan quickly becomes friends with Jamie, and the two decide to have a casual psychical relationship, as they are both still upset over their respective break-ups. The two keep insisting to everyone, including Dylan’s co-worker, GQ’s sports editor Tommy (played by Woody Harrelson); Dylan’s sister Annie(portrayed by Jenna Elfman) and their father (played by Richard Jenkins); and Jamie’s mother Lorna (portrayed by Patricia Clarkson), that they’re not romantically interested in each other. But the more time they spend together, the more Dylan and Jamie realize that they really do care about each other.
Director Will Gluck made the right decision in hiring Timberlake and Kunis to portray the two title characters. Having both come off two dramatic, Academy Award-winning films last fall, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Black Swan,’ respectively, the two equally seem at ease delivering jokes, particularly at each other. Timberlake and Kunis make Dylan and Jamie truly seem like they want to be with each other, but their insecurities, predominantly with their past failed relationships, prevent them from being able to commit to each other.
‘Friends with Benefits’ works better than it’s similarly-themed romantic comedy, January’s ‘No Strings Attached,’ which featured Kunis’ ‘Black Swan’ co-star Natalie Portman and ‘That ’70s Show’ co-star Ashton Kutcher. Gluck was able to make Dylan and Jamie relatable and realistic by explaining their insecurities over whether or not the other likes them. The romantic comedy delves into Dylan and Jamie’s personal and family lives, explaining they were both dealing with their significant others breaking up with them over their personalities and the fact they both have strained relationships with their parents. However, ‘No Strings Attached’ director Ivan Reitman unfortunately didn’t explain why Portman’s character Emma didn’t want to become emotionally involved with Kutcher’s character Adam.
Dylan and Jamie both show that with infusing any situation with laughs and humor can make internal conflicts less stressful. Like in ‘No Strings Attached,’ the leads have no external problems to overcome in ‘Friends with Benefits;’ but Gluck’s characters are both intriguing and have enough chemistry to make viewers want to see what ultimately happens between them. Much like the director’s previous comedy, the 2010 hit ‘Easy A,’ which also starred Emma Stone (who played Dylan’s ex-girlfriend Kayla in ‘Friend with Benefits’), he was once again able to commentate on some of contemporary society’s biggest issues, including accepting each other’s personality traits.
The casting of the popular Timberlake and Kunis in a sexual-driven comedy initially seemed like a great marketing tool for the film. However, the two actors truly proved their acting and comedic abilities while their characters tried to prove they didn’t need a serious relationship to be happy. ‘Friends with Benefits’ shows that friends who work together can have surprisingly positive results.
Written by: Karen Benardello