Friends with Benefits: directed by Will Gluck; written by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and Will Gluck
After seeing Friends with Benefits I came across some interviews that director/writer Will Gluck gave in relation to the film and my attention was immediately caught when I saw him compare it to a Tracy/Hepburn scenario. More arresting, though, was his concept of the characters’ mindfulness. A significant scene in the film sees the two, until then, sex starved protagonists Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) watching a romantic couple on screen played to anachronistic perfection by Jason Segel and the lovely Rashida Jones. Because these characters are so wise they’re able to point out the silliness of the romantic genre and the ludicrousness that has all those platitudes culminate in a happy ever after ending. The scene is delivered with a level of snark I accept, because even if I do feel badly for the genre romantic comedies tend to be embellished as of late with little to redeem them. In theory, it seems Gluck flirts with the idea of creating a response to decade and more of tired clichés – but, not quite...
More than a number of persons have credited the “success” of the film to the charisma of the two leads and Timberlake and Kunis definitely do have searing chemistry. For all his recent ubiquity, I like Justin Timberlake (although that’s more than possibly just residual appreciation from his music career) and though I’ve not seen Kunis in enough for her to move me I’m still interested in when she steps up the base line to serve (another sports’ metaphor, whoa). Still, fairly good performances hardly make fine cinema and though nothing about the film screams abysmal, the film around them doesn’t suggest priority. Patricia Clarkson shows up, as is her wont, to inject even more enthusiasm to the situation as Jamie’s kooky and somewhat loose mother. There’s a scene in the film which seems intended to mirror a similar one in Gluck’s last feature Easy A, and it doesn’t roll over the net unimpeded (ahem). It’s because Friends with Benefits spends a curiously short amount of time examining the purported issues of the characters. The film opens with respective hook-ups of Jamie and Dylan telling them that they’re emotionally undeveloped and damaged, and it’s not until well into the second half that they make up on any indication these emotional issues. Otherwise, Timberlake and Kunis prance around like any normal, good-looking young adult.
(*I’m done with the sports’ metaphors, I promise. See how gauche that was, with the constant use of sports’ metaphors even as I said that they’re awkward? That’s sort of how Friends with Benefits comes off.)