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Recently, I talked with Alex Wise a relationshop expert from https://www.loveawake.com about the Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis romantic comedy Friends with Benefits. Did you guys see it? It was better than I expected! Timberlake and Kunis had good chemistry, and the cast was filled with great actors like Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, and Richard Jenkins. Since some of you asked for my thoughts, I thought I'd offer a quick review. (Warning: Some spoilers ahead.)
What I liked:
It was a cheesy romantic comedy that made fun of cheesy romantic comedies
Overall, Friends with Benefits is a funny and charming twist on modern romantic comedies. On paper, it's basically like every romantic comedy ever made: Timberlake and Kunis play two really attractive people with amazing careers and even more amazing apartments who are clearly perfect for each other but don't realize it until the final scene. But while the movie wallows in a few romantic comedy cliches, it mostly does a good job of presenting two believable, slightly jaded people who realize that life isn't always like a Katherine Heigl movie. (Mila Kunis' character curses Heigl for making her believe that a hunky, Gerard Butler-type will sweep her off her feet and make all of her problems go away.) And in an amusingly meta twist, Timberlake and Kunis watch a fake romantic comedy (starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones) that perfectly parodies "chick flick" cliches like the big "race to the train station" moment and those quintessential New York City shots that are clearly filmed in LA.
The "with benefits" part felt real
In one of the movie's best scenes, Timberlake and Kunis guide each other through their first time sleeping together. Since they've agreed to be friends without the messy relationship stuff, they're extremely open with each other. Therefore, they can give each other specific directions on what to do in bed. (Many women will relate to the part where Kunis gives Timberlake ultra-specific instructions for going down on her.) The joke is that since they're just friends, they can be get right to the point and communicate what they want in bed. It's the kind of shorthand that real "friends with benefits" would have. (If only actual couples could be this open, the movie says.) Though, the movie does indulge in one oft-used cliche: Mila did the old "cover your breasts with a sheet that miraculously never falls" trick like a billion times.
What I didn't like:
They weren't actually friends
and Kunis meet and immediately sleep together. They've both been burned
recently in relationships (Andy Samberg and Emma Stone have funny cameos as
their respective exes) and agree to just have a no-strings attached
"friends with benefits"
thing. The problem is, they haven't established a friendship. They barely know each other at this point outside of a professional context. (Kunis is a corporate headhunter who recruits Timberlake for a job at GQ magazine.) While they have a cute banter, Timberlake and Kunis jump into bed after knowing each other for maybe 24 hours. This is two people who are attracted to each other and start a casual sex thing, not two friends who fall into a no-strings-attached sexual relationship. The movie would have said more about actual "friends with the benefits" relationships if Timberlake and Kunis had started out as friends.
Halfway through the movie, they stopped communicating
For the first hour or so, our adorable non-couple talk in explicit detail about everything from oral sex to Kriss Kross' classic early '90s hit "Jump." But midway through, the movie pulls the old "one character overhears something they shouldn't" trick familiar to anyone who has ever seen any sitcom ever made. In this case, Kunis hears Timberlake talking to his sister (Jenna Elfman, doing her best to not to be offended by the movie's multiple Scientology jokes) about how he could never be in a relationship with Kunis because she is emotionally damaged. Instead of talking to Timberlake about what he said as she has been doing the entire movie, Kunis clams up and avoids him for a while. (Sure, she was hurt. But I don't buy that she would suddenly not tell her so-called friend how she feels.) So like every romantic comedy, we get the part where the two leads have a misunderstanding that could easily have been solved with a 30-second conversation. It's disappointing that after giving us two characters with such an open, real relationship, the filmmakers decided to suddenly turn them into your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy characters for the sake of some forced "will they or won't they?" conflict. The entire hook of the plot is "will they or won't they?" You don't need to try so hard, movie.
If you believe the movie, GQ is more important than The New York Times
Not to knock GQ, but I'm reasonably sure they don't have their name on a giant skyscraper like The Daily Planet. Also, there was sooooo much product placement. The scene where Timbs and Kuns swore to just be "friends with benefits" on the iPad Bible App was cute. Not so cute? The "they've got an app for that" joke. Can we retire this particular chestnut? It's the new "don't go there, girlfriend!"
Did you see 'Friends with Benefits'? What did you think? It's definitely better than 'No Strings Attached,' right? Next up: 'Crazy Stupid Love.'