2011 will probably go down as the year Hollywood tells us having F* buddies is OK and encouraged, with no less than three films this year set around the premise of pure sex without strings or emotions attached, with Love and Other Drugs and No Strings Attached setting the precedence earlier with an incredibly good looking cast in all sorts of undress - Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher - and added to the list will be current IT guy and girl Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis rolling beneath the sheets in a typical love story between the emotionally unavailable and the emotionally damaged.
Mila Kunis stars as Jamie, a headhunter in New York who persuades her target Dylan played by Justin Timberlake to ditch his young, upstart blogging team to join GQ (how's that for a little bit of subtle advertising) in revamping its website and to infuse new content ideas. A night out prior to the offer seals the LA based Dylan to relocate and take up the offer, with plenty of activities thrown in that if it's not Jamie being his only friend in a new, big city, they would serve as activities that would fit in for an awesome date night out. Before long they become firm friends, and made a pact to keep things physical since they each have their wants, and with the other party game to get down and dirty, so begins their game of tennis (though personally I prefer analogy with, and the term "bedminton" - it involves cocks after all). After all, why complicate what would be a beautiful friendship, if sex can be treated just as sex without the emotions thrown in to mess things up?
You know the clichéd drill by now, with things moving along fine and dandy, the hint of emotions coming into play to really turn things upside down, the narrative montage to show how frequent they mate like jackrabbits, before some large, needy episode or statements uttered that will probably reveal the true state of affairs, and the list goes on. Deny all you want, but one cannot help but to agree that the fairer sex will have things rough if pacts of this nature turn sour, and expectedly in a movie they always do, otherwise everyone will be happy without adversary, frustration and challenges to overcome and provide that change in strength of character.
And it is this power of the cliché that absolutely calls the shots in films like these. You know what will happen, but want to see them happen anyway even though you're multiple steps ahead of every character. And it is precisely these expectations that anyone would want to see covered, and try as the filmmakers want it is the clichés that they find hard to break away from, even if characters here proclaim very early on that romance in their world shouldn't be like an unbelievable Hollywood film, but in what would be art imitating art, look who's talking to begin with. And what's with the fixation about consistently taking the shine off the captain of US Airways Flight 1549 in its emergency landing onto the Hudson River?
Justin Timberlake is fast becoming the busy bona fide movie star since The Social Network, and continues his run with this film and In Time which will hit the screens here soon. He has that boyish charm that the camera just loves, and being a real life singer meant covering a number of songs here, from Stereophonics to Kris Kross made it look all too easy. Mila Kunis plays her role as the emotionally damaged girl with aplomb, and shares an effective chemistry with Timberlake that makes this film a delight to sit through, even if as mentioned the story's cliché and we know just about how these two nice looking people will likely get together.
The supporting characters while one dimensional almost always threaten to steal the show, from Patricia Clarkson as Jamie's sex crazed mom extending the lifespan of a running joke involving the nationality of Jamie's unseen dad, Woody Harrelson as the gay colleague of Dylan who always have innuendos offhand to share, Jenna Elfman who plays Dylan's sister and Richard Jenkins starring as Dylan's dad who's suffering from advancing Alzheimer's disease, which is especially poignant as it deals with the subplot of how a family copes with a loved one who's behaviour develops erratically, and holding the key to a pivotal personal experience to share and turn things around.
With Andy Samberg and Emma Stone making cameos (the latter being extremely crazy as a fanatical John Meyer fan), Friends With Benefits has its main leads to thank for in milking quite the cliché story for the masses, who are likely to make a beeline just to see those two in some down and dirty action, not that you get to see a lot to begin with anyway. Recommended, and stay tuned until after the end credits roll for more commentary when the two are sitting at a couch watching the outtakes of a DVD movie.
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