Movie Review: Friends with Benefits
OK. I really, really wanted to hate this movie. First of all, the whole concept of friends having casual sex with no strings attached is so contrary to my experience it sounds like watching a movie about an eight armed hermaphrodite playing baseball. I have no basis for comparison and therefore the alien nature of the premise prevents me from having a connection. I have never successfully engaged in a FWB situation and, in my experience, an kind of sexual activity comes with so many strings that I end up feeling like a marionette. The idea of people getting away with this, especially two people as attractive as Mila Kunis and (I assume, based on what all my friends who are into guys say) Justin Timberlake, is almost infuriating. Also, I am thoroughly sick of Justin Timberlake’s perfect life. How good can someone’s life be?
However, as much as I wanted to pour the bitter bile of my life all over this film, it turned out to be shockingly honest and overall very decent. There is not an original bone in this films body; it is a typical Hollywood boy-meets-girl-for-casual-sex-but-then-they-discover-they-have-real-feelings-for-each-other rom com love story. There isn’t a single surprise in the whole story, except for the idea that there isn’t a qualified art director in all of New York City. The story, however, makes a lot of sense, there is real chemistry between the two characters, and there are a couple decent supporting characters. I won’t say it was a great movie going experience, but it is a good time watching.
The story. Justin Timberlake (just typing his name bugs me) is Dylan (could they have given him a sexier name? How about Studly McSuperpenis?), a guy who runs his own blog (the irony is NOT lost on me) in LA. Mila Kunis is is Jamie, a headhunter in NYC. GQ magazine needs a new Art Director and she recruits Dylan. He is at first hesitant to move to New York and she spends the evening showing him how great the city is. He abandons his employees in LA and moves out. As he is more or less friendless he starts hanging out with Jamie. They are both coming out of a recent painful breakup where they more or less got their hearts tossed in a wood chipper and then dumped onto a compost heap. They turn into fast friends and, as these things inevitably go (except in my life) start sleeping together for funsies rather than realsies.
Meanwhile, Dylan is working at GQ and befriends the gay sports writer Tommy, played by Woody Harrelson. I have to say that Woody doesn’t come across particularly well as a gay guy, but it’s obvious that he knows that and instead plays it so over the top that it gets hilarious. He dominated every scene he was in and added an extremely nice touch to the film. I especially liked him asking Dylan “You sure you’re not gay?” several times. However, for every Yin there inevitably must be a Yang, and in this case the Yang is pro snowboarder Shaun White. First of all, I met him back in my days of working in the skateboard industry (hahahahaha. They call it an industry) and he was kind of a jerk back then. I have contempt for extreme sports pro “athletes”, especially from sports so extreme that they actively try to keep anyone not “core” out. Say what you will about professional runners, but anyone can buy a pair of shoes and go running. Anyway, Shaun White plays a completely unnecessary bit character who brings the flow of movie to a head on collision every time he shows up. In a movie filled with really good actors delivering great performances all around he delivers a stilted, fake, Tweeki-like performance. Honestly, R2-D2 had more emotion and nuance. It is brutally apparent that one of the producers emailed the writers with something like “We got Shaun White to be in our film. This will help bring in teenage guys who would otherwise avoid our chick flick like this like a week old dead skunk. Find some way to crow bar him into the story”.
Anyway, enough of my personal bias. Dylan and Jamie bump uglies in a montage of sex scenes that are really funny and honestly shows a lot of what goes on when two people spend a lot of time together in bed. There were a few moments that seemed to drag on a lot and a couple that made me wish I had been simultaneously struck blind and deaf, but overall the montage was decent. Jamie’s free spirited mother showed up and added to the chaos. It was about that time that the movie started to get real. The whole “friends with benefits” thing really only works if both parties are true sociopaths, and since they aren’t they started to care for each other in ways beyond their original deal. They stop long enough for Jamie to get totally used by a jerk doctor and Dylan to have some kind of weird, awkward one night stand or something. They fly to LA together to deal with Dylan’s Alzheimer’s dad. Other romantic comedy comedy hijinks ensues. Conversations are overheard and misinterpreted. Feelings are hurt. Huge, cheesy romantic gestures are made.
The stars. Good story, well written. One star. Good acting by all the main characters and most of the supporting characters. One star. Mila Kunis was looking so hot with her big, puppy dog eyes and she spent a lot of the movie wearing just a bra and panties. One star. Whoever they got to be her body double for the brief nudity was great too. One star. Woody Harrelson as a gay sports writer. One star. Some really great and funny dialog. One star. I found the “laid back Californian dealing with New York city” entertaining. One star. They let the emotions actually go the way they should. I felt a certain satisfaction in how things didn’t really work out the way they all thought they would. One star. Generally an entertaining film. One star. Total: nine stars.
Now the black holes. Shaun White. One black hole. The script was as predictable as saying stubbing your bare toe is going to really hurt. One black hole. The whole Alzheimer’s dad sub plot, while adding some depth to Dylan’s character, was actually really depressing and out of tone for the rest of the movie. Every time you dealt with him on screen the film really slowed down. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have kept it in there. Just that it was kind of a bummer. One black hole. I also found the Jamie’s free spirited mother kind of unnecessary and a little annoying. One black hole. The entire basic premise of the movie. One black hole. Total: five black holes.
In the annoying-but-not-black-hole worthy category, I have a couple. While I enjoyed the Dylan as the Californian in NY thing, the Dylan having the perfect life in Malibu thing was annoying, as was the young nephew who wanted to be a magician. Not a bad thing, but just didn’t really add anything. Also, how that I think about it, Dylan’s older sister didn’t really ring as true as the rest of the characters (except Shaun White, who ironically managed to sound fake while playing himself).
Total of four stars, a really good score from me for a rom com. Good chick flick, but not really a good date movie unless you are in your relationship already. If it is a new thing she might misinterpret your intentions, which could turn into something really awkward (in a “I just got rejected again” sense). On the other hand, if you happen to have a friend you have been hoping lose by sleeping with for a while, this movie might plant the idea in her head. Don’t see it without a girl, and especially don’t see it by yourself, unless you are going to write a review for it, in which case you look totally normal and not at all creepy.
By the way, I just got copies of all the Harry Potter movies and plan to watch them all back to back over the next few days. Then I will see and review the newest one. I am not going to review each one seperatly but will instead do like a paragraph on each over two posts, than the big review. I think I am going to need a good supply of Diet Mountain Dew for this. (I thought the Wizard Promised you a Brain shirt courtesy of the funny t shirt category).
Warhammer tournament this weekend, so I won’t get it all done this week. Wish me luck!