Friends with Benefits (2011)

Comedy, Romance
Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman
While trying to avoid the clichés of Hollywood romantic comedies, Dylan and Jamie soon discover however that adding the act of sex to their friendship does lead to complications.
Friends with Benefits adds nothing new to its well-worn rom-com formula, but the chemistry between Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis is almost enough to carry the movie by itself.
  • Sony/Screen Gems Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 22 Jul 2011 Released:
  • 02 Dec 2011 DVD Release:
  • $55.8M Box office:

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Trailer:

A raunchy sex comedy that starts off sweet but becomes sour all too quickly7/10
I was unsure what to expect going into Friends with Benefits at an advanced screening a few weeks ago. It always seemed a bit too close in plot to No Strings Attached (made extra odd as the female leads Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman had literally just starred together in Black Swan), a film that came out less than six months ago, and while the trailers looked amusing, they seemed to look a little too close to an atypical romantic comedy. But the film actually ended up surprising me. Well, the first half at least.

Jamie (Kunis) is a headhunter in New York City who helps aspiring graphic design artist Dylan (Justin Timberlake) land a prestigious job at GQ. They become good friends, and after a discussion about their relationship failures, decide to start having sex without the relationship schmaltz (hence the titular phrase). But the good times cannot stay uncomplicated for long.

Rather surprisingly, the first half of Friends with Benefits is a ridiculously raunchy sex comedy that is sweeter than it is crude. The dialogue and one-liners drop at a steady pace, and there is plenty of laugh out loud moments. I was genuinely surprised at just how much I was enjoying the film, and how well co-writer/director Will Gluck (who knocked Easy A out of the park last year) helped capture the tropes and stereotypes of romantic comedies, and went entirely against them. The scene that starts the initial sexual antics is a complete dissection of the genre, and seeing the film twist and turn around the familiar plot devices was wonderful to see. It made the film feel hilarious, but also made it feel like it was attempting to do something different at the same time. Adding in a couple of random cameos from notable actors was a bit wacky (which the trailers have ruined slightly), but helped add to the humour.

Except the film comes to a screeching halt just about halfway in when Jamie and Dylan come to the all too obvious realization that they may want something more. The film then becomes drastically more dramatic, a lot less sweet, and significantly more ordinary. Even the laughs suffer, landing less with a snicker and more with a groan. Everything it does to shift itself away from the romantic comedy genre feels wasted because it falls into all of the stereotypes quicker than it poked fun at them. It almost feels like they wanted to desperately feel different, and then decided to just go the safer route as opposed to sticking with its offbeat early tactics. I was really enjoying the film significantly more than I imagined, but suddenly felt bored and totally thrown off by the drastic tonal shift.

While sketch comedy has proved to be one of his strong suits, Timberlake seems to have a lot of trouble carrying the film. We know he has the chops to command the screen and be absolutely magnetic (we have David Fincher and The Social Network to thank for that), but here he seems to be struggling with every other scene. He lands most of his jokes well, does decently with the dramatic bits and has plenty of chemistry with Kunis, but he lacks the spark I think most people will expect him to have in this role. He comes off as just okay, and more amateur than anything else. He would have been better suited in the film as a key supporting player, as opposed to the lead.

Kunis on the other hand, is significantly stronger and proves that her turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall may have been an early suggestion of the formidable comedic talent she may quickly become. Gluck is not able to achieve the same level of breakthrough that he got from Emma Stone in Easy A from Kunis, but she manages to carry the film almost single handedly. Even at the script's weakest moments, she grins and pushes forward, never once appearing to be struggling as much as Timberlake does. I think my only complaint against her is that she spends a good portion of the film completely nude, yet ends up wearing all too obvious pasties under a white shirt in one scene. It seems more like a complaint against a horrendously bad editing and lighting decision than against her, but it was a scene that made her seemingly-realistic character feel a whole lot less believable.

Patricia Clarkson and Richard Jenkins both deliver good performances, but sadly feel like they are just plagiarizing from characters they have played better in the past. Jenna Elfman (who I did not realize was still acting) does a little better in a warm and significantly low-key role as Dylan's sister Annie. But it is Woody Harrelson who steals the entire show as gay sports writer Tommy. He plays the character ridiculously over-the-top, but never feels like he is encroaching on any stereotypes. He makes it his own, and is almost too good in the role. He gets all of the film's best dialogue quips, and runs circles around everyone on screen. In more than one instance, Timberlake looks legitimately shocked at some of the things Harrelson says and gets away with. I think the film could have only benefited from including more of him.

In the end, Friends with Benefits is both surprisingly well done and unsurprisingly ordinary. It tries so hard initially to be the anti- romantic comedy, and then just ends up falling into the same predictable elements that every other film in the genre has already done countless times before. The film is genuinely hilarious when it wants to be however, and this does save it from being a total waste. But it could have been so much more.

7/10.
Good chemistry for sure8/10
I was expecting to have to compare this movie with No Strings Attached (or whatever that movie with Ashton Kutcher was) all the way through however I was pleasantly surprised that the story was a bit more complex despite the obvious parallels.

Yes it's the typical "boy and girl decide to be friends only but end up loving each other" movie .... but I must admit that it was a lot smarter in the delivery. Timberlake and Kunis have a lot of chemistry on camera ... It's shot primarily in new york so expect the cliched new york locations ...

The complexity of Timberlake's character is slowly revealed through the show as opposed to being revealed in the first 3 minutes like most other movies.

A good watch ... not slap your knee funny but certainly entertaining to the end ... cliches and all
Cliché, predictable, but so honest and funny!7/10
This movie was all things cliche and predictable. Even though you know what is coming, the honesty with life's little quirks and human behavior was incredibly well done.

Timberlake is an okay actor. I found him to be a fresh breath in this movie. The dialogue and scenario fit his charm quite well.

I found Mila Kunis to be quite funny, and she pulled off that cute, charming, awkwardly damaged woman, perfectly. She was chic, yet easy to relate too. Down to earth, but an air of success and confidence, hidden in all the girly dreams and fairy-tales.

If you want something original and never done before, this is the wrong movie to watch. If you wish to appreciate a good spin on an old concept with stellar humor and humanity, it is worth the watch..
A Cliché Romantic Comedy that Pokes Fun at Other Romantic Comedies8/10
I was able to see a sneak screening of this movie almost 1 month prior to it's official release. I honestly walked in simply thinking I was seeing another typical romantic comedy with my girlfriend. To my surprise it was much more.

Timberlake plays an LA Blog Art Director who has just been recruited to work for GQ in New York by Kunis who is a headhunter. The two had great chemistry through out the movie.

What's funny is that even though it does contain the usual Cliche scenes that most romantic adult comedies contain, it does tend to poke fun at them and have some sort of realism to the plot.

Both Timberlake and Kunis are likable and really funny. Woody Harrelson was the best addition to support this younger cast. Harrelson plays a flamboyantly gay sports editor who goes from making sexual advances to JT, to offering him some pearls of wisdom with his love life.

I would have to say this movie was very enjoyable and if your skeptical about seeing it in the theaters, definitely put it on your "must rent" list.
A sweet satire that's almost good (but not quite)6/10
What I can say for Friends with Benefits is that it's a cute movie that doesn't reach it's full potential. The main problem to me is that when it starts, the film is being played as satire and when it ends, it's being played straight. As a result, Friends with Benefits does not quite rise above the romantic material it mocks, but on occasion it's funny and adorable.

Actually for a while, the movie is on fire. The opening is cleverly handled, and is a good way to grab the audiences attention. Then for the next several scenes, Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake demonstrate charm, comfort and overall competence and end up delivering a couple of the funniest sexual encounters I've seen in years. What I like about them both is that they bring enthusiasm to whatever they do, and this film is no exception.

Around the halfway point, the film starts to feel a little boring. with a running time of just over a hundred minutes, Friends with Benefits is not a long movie, and while it's not exactly short either, it feels shorter than it should be. There are a few hints to suggest that a longer movie was intended but the Studio may have forced a cut down. In addition to an ending that feels rushed, all the supporting characters in the story seem futile, and underwritten. Woody Harrelsson, for example, can be a really funny guy, but he's not given the material or the screen time, to make his appearance worthwhile.

The film has it's ups, it has it's downs. It doesn't end up being a bad Rom-com, but I've seen better.