Fetching “friends” in search of a better movie. 

Like Crazy, Stupid, Love — but at a somewhat lower level of achievement — Friends With Benefits is a conventional romantic comedy that aspires to a higher level of quality and charm than most. And, like Crazy, Stupid, Love, it risks squandering a good central cast with distracting, self-conscious conceits.

The problem here isn't audience-pandering raunch. If Friends With Benefits is more clinical in its sexual humor than No Strings Attached — the year's other "sex buddies" comedy pairing a Black Swan vet with a grown-up former teen-culture heartthrob — then that's a rational choice for a comedy built around issues of casual copulation.

And stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are both game — in and out of the sack. Timberlake is a hotshot art director sought by corporate headhunter Kunis for a job opening at GQ. Kunis successfully recruits Timberlake from Los Angeles to New York where, improbably, she's the only person he knows. Bare-essential plot mechanics — swiftly depicted breakups and established family baggage providing motivation — contrive to get them in bed but not in a relationship.

Whether negotiating sexual mechanics or rapping along with Kriss Kross' eternal '90s hit "Jump" — Timberlake is the rare star who can make this kind of standard-issue rom-com musical scene charming — this well-cast pair is highly engaging. They seem to enjoy each other, and, unlike Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached, you believe them as a couple.

Unfortunately, the movie is too busy and desperately conceived to rest on their chemistry. Friends With Benefits falters with the side stuff. Most of the non-sex humor is built around blatantly zeitgeist-seeking topics — flash mobs, iPad apps, Los Angeles street art, etc. — that feel artificially inserted. The usually welcome Patricia Clarkson plays Kunis' oddball, permissive mother in a characterization that feels like a riff on her role in Friends With Benefits director Will Gluck's previous film, Easy A. It was funny then, annoying now. And Woody Harrelson, as a gay GQ colleague who can't stop joking about his sexuality, is saddled with perhaps the most uncomfortable role/performance in movies this year.

Now playing

Multiple locations

Friends With Benefits
Rated R · 104 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.fwb-movie.com
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Harley Peyton and Keith Merryman
Producer: Liz Glotzer, Will Gluck and Martin Shafer
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Friends With Benefits


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



Music Blog

Listen Up: Nathan McHenry

News Blog

Rate Changes to Come for Metered Parking Downtown

Intermission Impossible

The Winners for the 2017 High School Musical Theatre Awards

Hungry Memphis

Ghost River's Grindhouse Headed to a Can Near You

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

The Lovers

Music Blog

The Restoration of John Gary Williams

News Blog

MLGW and UPS Receive Sustainability Award

Hungry Memphis

Shipt Launching June 1st


More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation