Director: Will Gluck
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, Nolan Gould
Synopsis: Just like recent predecessors Love and Other Drugs and No Strings Attached, this is a film concerning two friends hooking up with the plan of having no romantic entanglements. However, they discover, just like their predecessors, that to avoid any attachment to their sexual partner is easier said than done.
With this film, I conclude yet another trilogy of repeated cinematic ideas, the former being the trend of films such as Kick-Ass, Defendor, and SUPER. Thankfully however, being the last film released in this series has not hindered enjoyment of Friends with Benefits. The predecessors for this film both went to some very serious areas. Love and Other Drugs was certainly more of a drama then a comedy, and though the drama was well portrayed, the film had been ill-promoted as a comedy, so the viewer was forced to change gears to the true demands of the film. Meanwhile, No Strings Attached was a more standard comedy, however one of its protagonists was way too unlikable by the final frame.
Friends with Benefits also treads the comedy line, but does so with greater success from as both leads are immensely likeable. Justin Timberlake gives a great comedic performance, and shows a lot more talent than the caricature of a person that he played in Bad Teacher. It shows that paired with the right director, there is a potential well of talent here yet to be tapped. Kunis meanwhile has been crying out for a great lead role. She did a fine job in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, though her character was somewhat side-lined in that feature. She did great also in Black Swan, though her amazing performance was overshadowed by the tour de force performance from Natalie Portman alongside her. Friends with Benefits gives her a true chance to shine, and I hope other directors continue to give her a valid chance in future.
This film was directed by Will Gluck, whom previously had great success with Emma Stone vehicle Easy A. This film feels different to Easy A, and yet there are still some elements that share similar DNA between the two films. Certainly, Patricia Clarkson almost seems to reprise her role as kooky parental figure. I think it is more her talent than anything else which manages to make some distinctions between the two characters. Also showing some Gluck DNA is the confrontation of serious moral and emotional issues, most clearly portrayed in Timberlake’s relationship with his father, whom is suffering from dementia. These moments balance out the comedy, and result in a sweet film rather than just a funny one.
In the end however, the film is a romantic comedy, and does follow the regular structure of courtship (or in this case, avoiding courtship), dilemma that separates the couple, then the final big act to bring about the resolution. So far, so seen before. But the film does what it does very well, and even makes fun of romantic comedy tropes to acknowledge the truth of this cliché. The result is a pleasant diversion, and one that I would not shy from seeing again whenever I am next in the mood for a soppy film.
3.5 out of 5 stars