The ironic thing about romantic comedies is that they usually aren’t funny. Unlikeable characters in unlikely plot lines with predictable plot twists just end up making 1-2 hour messes on video. Friends with Benefits shows that in order to make this mess work it has to acknowledge that everything that came before was nonsense.
Friends with Benefits has Dylan (Justin Timberlake, Bad Teacher) and Jamie (Mila Kunis, Family Guy) trying to have a sexual relationship and friendship with no emotion. If this sounds familiar that’s because it’s the exact same plot as No Strings Attached from earlier in the year. Friends with Benefits actually almost feels like a remake – a remake done right.
Friends with Benefits is fully aware that not only is it a romantic comedy but that romantic comedies are usually incredibly stupid. Timberlake and Kunis decide they want to do without the cheesy relationship stuff and find that their friendship could be enhanced by sex. The two have some of the best onscreen chemistry ever seen in the genre, actually feeling more like best friends than the predictable smitten lovers trying to pretend everything is okay.
Another genre defying piece is that the film is actually funny. It’s a surprisingly sophisticated kind of comedy that relates to anyone who has ever had a close friend of the opposite sex. It just proves that many plots could be rescued by great chemistry.
Another unusual event is the fact that the supporting cast is actually good, rather than being a pile of annoying eccentrics. Woody Harrelson plays a non-stereotypical gay guy who befriends Timberlake and Patricia Clarkson plays Kunis’ flaky mother. The best though is Timberlake’s family. Jenna Elfman plays his sister who is living with her 10-year-old son and their aging father suffering from alzheimer’s. This actually creates another interesting relationship between Timberlake and the father, which creates one of the most touching scenes ever seen in the genre. A definite must-see.
Overall the film isn’t just good for what it is, it’s good. It’s still not the most intelligent thing ever made – the half hour worth of sex scenes takes care of that – but it’s better than any of the other romantic comedies which have already been trotted out this year, and probably will be better than whatever else will come.
Friends with Benefits is rated R for language and funny sex scenes.