Saturday, July 30, 2011

Friends With Benefits (2011)

Today we are all stuck in a world that is plagued with predictable,cliched romantic comedies that make us feel that staring at a blank tv screen would be a more enjoyable experience. Even an eerily similar film called No Strings Attached suffered from that said description. However, Friends With Benefits, even with a plot that almost directly mirrors No Strings Attached, takes a different and much bolder approach by poking fun at those cliches while still intentionally carrying on the ploy that the film itself is one big cliche. But if you take time to think about that, it's pretty much the whole point.

Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake) is a newbie to New York City when he becomes the newest art director for GQ with the help of executive recruiter Jamie (Mila Kunis). The two immediately bond and they share that they're both emotionally damaged because their relationship pasts don't have the greatest track records. To avoid the cliches of Hollywood romantic comedies, the two decide that they abide by the "No Emotions, Just Sex" kind of relationship. However, things do get complicated between both of them, and the film itself intentionally turns into a cliche but in a very sweet and funny way.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have deliciously sweet chemistry between each other to carry this film. You can constantly point out moments into the film's fast-paced running time that they're both having a blast with the material they're given. Mila is very energetic and when you match that with Timberlake's charismatic charm, it's a pairing that never loses its mojo and has you laughing throughout. Besides the the Timberlake/Kunis duo, the supporting cast is quite remarkable. Woody Harrelson turns in some hilarious quips as a gay sports editor at GQ, and Patricia Clarkson delivers a commendable performance as Jamie's sweet but sometimes risque mother. But for me the real standout in the supporting cast was Richard Jenkins as Dylan's sweet but Alzheimer's stricken father. Jenkins nails down the emotional core of the film but has a very sweet scene with Timberlake that might resonate with you because of the way he delivers it. Add on some funny cameos from Shaun White,Jason Segel,and Rashida Jones,too,which were all random but all executed perfectly.

Will Gluck directs this film with a very fast pace and plays along with the cliches in one of the most creative quick-witted ways I've seen in awhile. With this film and Easy A, Gluck has turned into the best director in the present day that can take typical cliches of a certain type of comedy sub-genre, and turn them into extremely clever comedies that put a new spin on the genre it's already satirizing. The dialogue is very fast-paced and clever, especially with it's numerous instances of meta talk. Thank god for the highly underrated comedy series Community for bringing that kind of humor back to us.

Friends With Benefits is definitely one of the best romantic comedies of the year, especially for the fact that it takes the bold strategy of satirizing the cliches of its own genre. Very electric chemistry between the two leads along with some very funny and sometimes sweet performances from the supporting cast combined with Will Gluck's quick-witted direction make this one of the surprise comedies of the summer. Even if the film is one big cliche, don't avoid it because it has potential to be a sleeper hit this summer.

Final Grade: B

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