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Monday, 19 September 2011

Friends With Benefits

Romantic-comedies. The mere sight of those two words will have males running towards the hills and your average art-house hipster tutting loudly whilst shaking his head in disapproval. They are the carbon copies of every single other film in the genre and remain popular despite the genre's reputation for having:
  • A poor plot
  • Terrible actors
  • A high level of predictability
  • Cringe-worthy "jokes"
  • A lack of originality
  • Embarrassing cliched moments
Yet, these films make million upon millions and why? Us women love a good old, soppy film and a slice of eye candy to satisfy our hunger. A satirical take on its own genre, "Friends with benefits" still has a "slice of eye candy" for us to drool over (in the form of ever handsome, Justin Timberlake) but adds another dimension for us all to enjoy, genuine hilarity, a good script and (most surprisingly) talent.

Much like previous 2011 release "No Strings Attached" (Female lead being played by Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis' cast-mate in "Black Swan"), the plot investigates what happens when friends become more than just friends, but in a purely physical manner. "Emotionally unavailable" graphic designer Dylan (Justin Timberlake) moves to the hustling, bustling city of New York after getting dumped by his slightly insane ex-girlfriend (Emma Stone) and a reasonable amount of persuasion by beautiful head-hunter Jamie (Mila Kunis), who is also recently single. Jamie and Dylan quickly form a friendship, and after watching a truly terrible romantic comedy, they conclude that friends should be able to have sex without it having to equate to anything more than that and immediately go about trying to prove their own theory to be correct.

Being a romantic comedy, you should be able to guess the ending from a mile off, however, the fact that director Will Gluck ("Easy A") was involved in not only the directing, but the screenwriting for this movie should be enough to convince you that this movie won't be entirely unoriginal. This is proven early on through use of pseudo-cynicism, poking fun at rom-com's cliches and cheesy dialogue. Gluck's directing is intelligent, with the impersonal first night of sex that Jamie and Dylan spent together seeming a world apart from first, genuinely tender night of love the two shared later on in the film. Through use of dialogue, music and camera shots, Gluck was able to manipulate the audiences reactions to the different scenes. Comedic moments came quick and heavy during the first half of the film, with recurring gags becoming apparent as the film progressed (Captain Sully and "John Fucking Mayer"). The second half focused more on character development and drama, but still contained a fair few laugh out loud moments (Dylan having to be rescued by helicopter being one of them). Following up the runaway success of last years charming comedy "Easy A", Gluck proves that he is without a doubt, a director to watch.

Mila Kunis proves herself fit for leading lady, with "Black Swan" already proving to audiences everywhere that she is more than a capable actress. Her multi-faceted portrayal of the seemingly tough, yet ultimately sweet Jamie makes it hard to not admire her acting talent. The audience genuinely care for the films characters and their tragic back-stories will move the most stone-hearted member of the audience, if only for a second. Justin Timberlake's portrayal of a young man struggling to deal with his Father's Alzheimer's was heart-warmingly realistic, despite the fact that it was shown in ridiculously small doses. His work on "Friends With Benefits" doesn't quite equate to "The Social Network", but it's an impressive performance none-the-less for such a mainstream musician. Emma Stone's short, yet hilarious cameo appearance in the film made me and my friend smile, as I'm sure it made many people in the audience. Stone is fast becoming everyone's favourite actress, due to her smart choice in roles, her sharp wit and her fantastic acting talent. The fact that this is the second film that she appears in that Will Gluck has directed is a promising sign that the two will have a working relationship to rival Nolan/Caine, Burton/Depp or Scorsese/De Niro. Despite my love for "Easy A" star Emma Stone, I was not certain about her previous on-screen Mother, Patricia Clarkson. The quirkiness of her character seemed to work perfectly for her previous role in "Easy A", but didn't quite seem to click during her portrayal of Jamie's alcoholic and somewhat promiscuous Mother. It was a hit or a miss for her character during the films run time, it's debatable whether this was because of the actresses' performance or the cluttered presentation of the character and her back-story in the script. 

The soundtrack for the movie was expertly chosen by Halli Cauthery and Ryan Perez-Daple, ranging from the melodic and utterly beautiful I Will Follow You Into The Dark, the thought-provoking Take A Bow to the upbeat, somewhat urban remix of classic New York, New York. It's a great soundtrack, that seems to fit the action on screen most times without sounding mis-matched. When compared to other films in the genre, this soundtrack sounds as if it were compiled by angels.

The reason however, that the film is memorable is not because of its fantastic soundtrack, but rather the razor sharp wit of the script. The film focuses more on the comedy than it does on the romance, I'm sure the majority of you will be glad to hear, and the few truly romantic moments that the film has are so beautifully written, you'll forgive the script writers for creating them. It's a fun plot, the script is filled with more quotable references than you'll know what to do with and a fair few scenes of heart-warming moments to display the casts' acting talent. 

Males of the world, rejoice. This might just be one "chick flick" you don't mind your girlfriend dragging you along to see.

And if you're still not sold on the film?

It's 109 minutes spent with the lovely Mila Kunis.
Have I managed to convince you yet?


  1. I actually watched the film after this review. I have to say that I liked it, I hate the soppy rom-com films but this one had the right balance for me.
    I think my favourite character was Dylan's dad with all the stuff about life being too short plus the 109 minutes of Mila Kunis, she's worth so much than a voice over actress. Wasn't that fussed on Justin Timberlake.

  2. Richard Jenkins (Dylan's Dad) was great! I kind of wish he had more scenes, the drama in the film wasn't conventional, it was very realistic and heart-felt. The speech he made towards the end was fantastic.

    And yes, Mila Kunis is great! Under-rated, but I think she could be one to watch.

    I liked Justin Timberlake! I think he's a surprisingly good actor, despite his handsome appearance and musical background. Usually, the handsome singers are truly shocking actors. It was nice to see a change here.