Friends With Benefits

Dylan and Jamie are acquaintances frustrated from their inability to find true love. They decide to enter into a casual arrangement whereby they can experience the physical benefits of a relationship without the grown-up annoyances of commitment and emotions. Anyone using barely 1/10 of their brain, will know instantly what’s going to ultimately happen to these two flirtatious, twenty-somethings upon making this deal. Did you actually think it was possible for friends of the opposite sex to sleep together and not fall in love? Silly you!

I suppose the conventional plot wouldn’t be so bad if we were treated to snappy dialogue and sparkling charm along the way. The problem is that these two never have a real conversation. They chatter like adults minus the supposed maturity that age usually affords, cracking sarcastic one-liners at each other, one after another without taking a breath. Relax!  At first it’s amusing, but eventually their voices become annoying. She’s shrill, he’s whiny. None of it resembles how people really talk. I’ve seen the actors on the TV show Small Wonder deliver their lines with more nuance. Imagine some rejected sitcom pilot expanded to feature length with lots of R rated remarks and you’ll get the idea.

The nicest compliment I can give Friends with Benefits is that it’s contemporary. The worst is that it’s sleazy. At least the faux romantic comedy they watch within this film, exhibits something resembling warmth. The (admittedly exaggerated) chemistry between Jason Segel and Rashida Jones, shows some sweetness. The most successful films of this sort rely on some pretense of propriety. There’s a reason why the “Walls of Jericho” scene in It Happened One Night is still remembered today. It’s regrettable they’ve essentially done away with the courtship right from the start, so we’re left with just sex, a racy script and gratuitous nudity (Justin not Mila).

But the biggest offense of all is that this romantic comedy succumbs to every single one of the same clichés it mocks. This is presented with unblinking sincerity. The running joke is that the parody of a romcom they’re watching on TV, humorously wallows in timeworn conventions: musical cues to tell you how to feel, predictable behavior, a sappy ending. Friends with Benefits then proceeds to play adult contemporary songs to underscore each scene, have them predictably fall in love and then kiss at Grand Central Station. It’s worse in this case, because it’s dishonest. But the hypocrisy gets even more odious. It goes so far as to take a dig at frequent star of the genre, Katherine Heigl, by name. The ironic thing is, a movie like Knocked Up is light years better than this pablum. Heck 27 Dresses was superior to this dross.

Aside from starring attractive leads, there’re little to recommend in this utterly rote tale of people falling in love. I almost forgot to mention a few other tidbits. There’s a dreary subplot regarding a father suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s played for laughs. Dylan is constantly riddled by fears of being presumed gay, in part because he enjoys Harry Potter. And most importantly, it has the identical premise as No Strings Attached, a picture which literally came out in the same year. Friends With Benefits aspires to the blueprint of an Ashton Kutcher movie. ‘Nuff said?

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6 Responses to “Friends With Benefits”

  1. I think I might still see this, however, I don’t care too much for Justin Timberlake. He annoys me.

    • I have mixed feelings about Justin Timberlake. He was great in the films Alpha Dog and The Social Network. He‘s usually good for a few laughs on “Saturday Night Live”. He’s hosted four times! But I can also name just as many atrocities that he’s been associated with. The Love Guru comes immediately to mind and he was probably the worst thing in the so-so Bad Teacher.

  2. Markus Robinson Says:

    lol very good review Mark! And I don’t know if FWB is worst than 27 Dresses, but thats another argument haha. Aside from that statment, your fourth pharagraph was maybe the truest thing you said about this film, even making me rethink my own stance and rating (even though I’m still keeping mine a 3 out of 5 stars lol). I thought the dialogue between Kunis and Timberlake was more witty than you did, but their chemistry was blah, I can understand how the continuous one liners could sound contrived and become annoying after a while; I did find more than half of these lines clever and or funny though, Oh and by the way, the last line of this review had me rolling!

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