Thursday, July 28, 2011

Friends with Benefits - movie reviews

5 Reasons To See ‘Friends With Benefits’– It Might Not Actually Be The Best Idea, But The Movie Sure Is!

When since I first heard about this on-screen duo, I knew I would be seeing it if just to see the sexiest movie couple ever get together, but luckily it ended up being more than that. Check out my 5 reasons why this movie needs to be on the top of your weekend to do list!

1. I know a lot of you are probably thinking — “Wasn’t this made a few months ago with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher?” Well, that was No Strings Attached, and the flicks couldn’t be more different! Natalie and Ashton’s love story is cliched. She’s doctor who works 80 hours a week, which is why she decides to use Ashton as her sex buddy. And she also has family issues because her father died, so she never let herself get close to anyone else — Yuck! Mila and Justin’s relationship is totally normal! They both have problems that have made them either emotionally unavailable or emotionally damaged, but so do we all. But neither of them have taken their problems to the extreme and using it as their explanation for not being able to commit. Mila is a typical girl who wants to be swept of her feet, just like in the movies, and Justin is a typical guy who takes things in their literal sense ALL throughout the entire movie and even manages to think he can get mad at Mila back just because she gets mad at him — such a guy move!

2. The supporting characters are just as great! Patricia Clarkson who plays Mila’s mom and Woody Harrelson who play’s Justin’s gay co-worker, are not only hilarious, but they actually tie in nicely to the storyline, giving insight to both Mila and Justin in their time of need. Sometimes even Mila and Justin need a third party perspective, who would have thought?

3. All the amazing cameos! Andy Samberg and Emma Stone get to play the exes who dump Mila and Justin at the beginning of the film. And two of my favorite characters in the film, Jason Segal and Rashida Jones play the lovey-dovey couple in the movie with in a movie that make Mila and Justin want to barf, and though I totally get why — it’s HILARIOUS!

4. Mila and Justin have great chemistry! Like they ever wouldnt?!

5. And I am not sure if I previously mentioned this before, but Justin and Mila together + naked + Justin sings = need I say more!



Reason #5 sounds too similar to #4, but this is great insight about the supporting characters! Here's another review:

I admittedly went into Friends With Benefits with low expectations. Saddled with a premise that was literally just capitalized on by the hit Natalie Portman/Ashton Kutcher vehicle No Strings Attached a mere six months ago, and starring two admittedly appealing lead performers in Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis who hadn't yet anchored a feature on their own, Friends With Benefits nevertheless managed to surpass my preconceptions to emerge as one of the most cracklingly good romantic comedies in recent memory.

Helmed by Will Gluck, the director of last year's charmingly lightweight teen comedy Easy A, the film stars Timberlake as Dylan, an up-and-coming L.A. art director who finds himself in New York after scoring a big-time job interview with GQ magazine – an opportunity negotiated, as it just so happens, by plucky executive headhunter Jamie, a wide-eyed Big Apple beauty played by Kunis in a star-making turn.

As we learn in a brief prologue just prior to their first meeting, both young professionals have also been recently dumped, he by a voraciously demanding John Mayer super-fan (Emma Stone) and she by a nitpicky, insensitive cad with obvious commitment issues (Andy Samberg).

Of course, as if two virile young adults this impossibly attractive could ever keep their hands off each other, soon enough Jamie and Dylan – who does land that GQ gig, in case you were wondering – transition from fun-loving, flirtatious buds to enthusiastic sexual partners, in a "friends with benefits" arrangement that has them making a pact to refrain from emotional involvement while satiating one another's libidos.

In the hands of two less simpatico performers, this setup could have easily resulted in one big cinematic eye-roll, particularly because on the surface there's just not much that's especially relatable about these two characters. Both are very successful professionals (Dylan's New York apartment is a fantasy version of big-city living – sprawling and modern, with enormous windows overlooking Manhattan), both are unreasonably gorgeous (Jamie looks as if she could easily moonlight as an in-demand print model), and hell, both could bed pretty much whomever they wanted if they put their minds to it.

And yet the chemistry between Timberlake and Kunis is sensational. Beginning somewhere around the 15-minute mark, the two gifted actors manage to establish a gusty, appealing tit-for-tat rhythm that ultimately streamrolled over my initial skepticism.

For his part, director Gluck easily sustains the magnetic rapport between his two leads, managing to zero in on the chemistry between them very early on and establishes his own connection with it like some grateful matchmaker, grinning with satisfaction and relief just off-camera. He also seems to have trusted in his stars enough to allow for an agreeable looseness in their on-screen interactions, as we get the sense at times – as in a terrific scene that has Timberlake doing his best interpretation of the early '90s Kriss Kross hit "Jump" to Kunis' obvious delight – that he simply sat back and let them play.

This somewhat hands-off directorial sensibility also seems to have extended to the film's raunchy-for-the-genre sex scenes (we see Timberlake's bare ass no less than three separate times, and it's no body double), which come across refreshingly real and unmannered even when we know they couldn't have been easy bits for the actors to shoot.

Indeed, there's a genuine intimacy to the sex depicted here that is both fun and also delicately layered with emotion, so that when the inevitable romantic complications ensue we actually believe these two people have fallen in love. While to an extent this is undoubtedly a result of the extensive input Gluck reportedly allowed Kunis and Timberlake during the rewriting process, it's also an unavoidable byproduct of the two stars' authentic on-screen alchemy.

The believability factor in the central relationship also seems to have filtered down to the able supporting cast. Patricia Clarkson is reliably good as Jamie's hippy-dippy and neglectful mother (bringing a welcome groundedness to a rather self-consciously quirky character), and yet like everyone else here, the performance is elevated by the electricity generated by her two young co-stars. As Timberlake's beloved father, who appears in an extended L.A. interlude that brought to mind one of James L. Brooks' character-driven comedies, Richard Jenkins succeeds in bringing depth to a role that mostly exists to underscore the dramatic arc of Timberlake's character (indeed, the weepy nature of his subplot ultimately feels rather shoehorned in).

Jenna Elfman, too, makes best use of a rather thankless "sounding-board" role as Dylan's older sister, and Woody Harrelson, chewing the scenery as his macho gay coworker, has that same old go-for-broke twinkle in his eye despite his screen time being fairly limited.

Of course, Friends With Benefits isn't a perfect film. In addition to the above-mentioned shortfalls in characterization, the film's sense of self-awareness with regard to romantic comedy conventions feels somewhat labored and disingenuous at times, particularly in a movie-within-a-movie (featuring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones in brief cameos) that feels like the sort of dated and blunt-edged "satire" that could only be produced by a Hollywood studio. Add to that a "look, we're topical!" flash mob device and there's no doubt the film can sometimes be too cloying and self-conscious for its own good.

But when Friends With Benefits works, which is most of the time, it works exceedingly well, in no small part thanks to the palpable on-screen heat generated by its two leads. In a tired genre that has given us so much disposable fluff over the last two decades, that counts as nothing less than a minor triumph.



Are you going to see the film? Did you see it? How would you review the film (concentrate on Andy's role and performance)? We'll post your responses!



Anonymous said...

just saw it, and it was really cute and funny<3

Sarah said...

I love how this serial title sounds like!

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