Friends with Benefits (2011)

09 September 2011

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Friends with Benefits. The relationship between two friends gets complicated when they decide to get romantic.  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 the Hollywood romantic comedies would have them believe.  They soon discover however that getting physical really does always lead to complications!

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“It’s a quirky and humorous film highlighting the difficulties in love, sex and relationships amidst the age of social networking…”

Friends with Benefits is a savvy romantic-comedy, about two friends attempting to have sex without commitment.

Dylan (Justin Timberlake) has moved to New York City from California to begin a new job and career, with the help of the convincing head hunter Jamie (Mila Kunis). The two, who both seem relatively lonely and inept at the relationship game, become acquaintances, in both a professional and social sense.

However, they soon recognise that, due to both being single, they could have sex as often as they like, as long as nothing serious prevails. It is just sex, after all. Although, naturally and quite evidently, they soon develop feelings for one another, and then suddenly their attempt to simply have sex with no strings attached, becomes more complex than initially expected.

At the outset, I felt that the film had little promise. It was quite an obvious and predictable feature, with two actors I had previously held with little regard, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

It’s a quirky and humorous film highlighting the difficulties in love, sex and relationships amidst the age of social networking. The characters are intelligently put together, as Jamie, the seemingly self-assured half of the relationship, is actually rather vulnerable and just as susceptible to the emotional strains of a relationship as the next girl. 

Dylan, who also comes across as being relatively confident and poised in his new career, also proves to have a soft and somewhat geeky side to his personality, with a tendency to struggle in long-term relationships. He also has the burden of having to deal with the difficulties in helping his father (Richard Jenkins), who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Both performances are strong, particularly that of Timberlake, who is beginning to prove himself as an actor, as the transition from pop idol to Hollywood star is gathering momentum. Timberlake actually manages to encapsulate the emotional aspect to his character, whilst proving to have a real talent for comic timing – pulling off various one-liners throughout the feature.

But for me, the most important aspect to the film which really gives it some depth and supremacy in comparison to recent romantic comedies, is the chemistry between the two protagonists. There is the perfect blend of sexual tension and a shared sense of humour that allows for the characters to simply seem right together. It certainly helps proceedings when the audience too, yearn for the two lead roles to get together – and with the great rapport between the characters, adding to the film’s authenticity, this certainly proves to be the case.

Don’t get me wrong, despite the positive aspects to the film, it is still a conventional Hollywood rom-com, and, as a result, has its shortcomings. Its predictability is an issue, and the film continuously rips into the conformist and traditional aspects of the genre, using a mock feature throughout to highlight such issues. The characters watch this fake and deliberately corny film and refer to it over the course of the feature, as they challenge the film’s premise and rip into the cheesy music that accompanies the film and how palpable it all becomes.

However, given the cheesy music and inevitability of Friends with Benefits, it’s hard to tell whether the film is portraying a degree of irony in this instance, or whether it’s just pure contradiction.

Whilst I still attempt to discover the line between the two, I do recommend Friends with Benefits. It’s witty and delightful, and, despite bearing far too many similarities to No Strings Attached, which was released earlier this year, it’s still its own film and offers the viewer a different take on modern rom-coms, which is quite fresh and original in this regard.

Having said this, the film does become far too predictable; I won’t actually say what happens; I’ll leave that for you to figure out.

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