Directed by: Will Gluck
Produced by: Liz Glotzer
Screenplay by: Keith Merryman
David A. Newman
Starring: Justin Timberlake
Music by: Halli Cauthery
Cinematography by: Michael Grady
Editing by: Tia Nolan
Studio: Castle Rock Entertainment
Distributed by: Screen Gems
Release date(s): July 22, 2011 (United States)
September 9, 2011 (United Kingdom)
Running time: 109 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $35 million
Box office revenue (as of publication): $111, 402, 754
As mentioned in my previous post (lord knows why I feel I should mention it again), despite this being October, I have seen this film and Killer Elite in September, and I will be including a review of Blitz for the previous month and following this with a review of the month. Also, last night I finished the first series of Sleeper Cell, a Showtime production I would really recommend having look at. More reviews will be posted in the upcoming few weeks, so keep your eyes posted.
So, another week goes and another comedy comes (no pun intended). Friends With Benefits is the latest in a sub-genre of romantic/sex comedy that depicts a no-strings-attached relationship. Dylan (Justin Timberlake) works as an art director for an internet company in L.A., a job that he leaves when he is offered a position for GQ. Dylan and Jamie (Mila Kunis), the Executive Recruiter who was saddled with the task of trying to get Dylan to accept the job, become friends and during conversation end up on the topic of sex. Sure enough, they end up deciding to have sex, hence the film's title. Despite their dedication to, indeed, a lack of dedication to one another, lo and behold, tensions rise and things get a bit more complicated than they intended.
To start off with what is good about the film, I must flag up the performances. In a rom-com, it is of great importance that the central two characters must have a chemistry that is portrayed by two actors who fit their respective roles. Like One Day, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are matched together well. As an actor, I always find Timberlake to be very underrated, and he exudes charisma in the kind of part that could have ended up being annoying folly. However, it must be said that Mila Kunis steals the show. After her wonderful turn in Black Swan, Kunis is on a role, and she delivers the kind of comedic performance that puts her in the same company as Julia Roberts. She portrays Jamie with a complexity that, if I am frank, is not befitting of the overall film itself. Able to change tones multiple times during the course of the scene, Kunis nails the part. The past couple of years have been good to Mila Kunis, and her role in Friends With Benefits is no exception. Also, very good are Woody Harrelson (as ever, on top form as the wildly homosexual Tommy) and Patricia Clarkson (who also starred in One Day) as Jamie's mother. It is clear too that Will Gluck knows how to direct a comedy. This is efficient work that does the job that it is meant to, a Gluck handles it well. Also, the dialogue in the script (which is very good for the first half of the film) is very witty and with the stars involved, it did provide yours truly with a number of laughs.
While I certainly found this a funny film, there are also a number of problems. As mentioned, the script has a good first half, but structurally the second half is a real mess. I don't know how to explain myself adequately without plot spoilers but I will try my best. The whole catch of Friends With Benefits is the no-strings-attached relationship, and continues down that line until a certain point where they seem to decide that the concept has been milked for all it's worth and really clip on a nuts-and-bolts second half. Oddly enough, I couldn't help but think of Videodrome when the direction the film took ended up going the same way as the film's that the characters were taking the piss out of earlier. It is ends up being really perversely postmodern in all the wrong ways, wrapped in a pink ribbon of kitsch and cliche. This is due to the fault of the film's script, and I cannot say that the music by Halli Cauthery helps the matter. For starters, it begins as a kind of sassy, hip type of film, and then by the second half we have what I call the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra exuding all the wattage of music that says 'this is how we must feel.' These elements really reduced what could have been a great film.
Despite some serious issues in the latter half of the film's script (and as a result, the film) and a dull, murder-by-numbers score from Halli Cauthery, Friends With Benefits is a good film. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis both deliver good performances in the leads, and are backed up by Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson. The dialogue is sharp, witty and very humorous, and it is obvious Will Gluck knows how to direct a comedy.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.2/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Rushing (as usual)