After rave reviews from friends and critics, I went against my better judgment and decided see Friends with Benefits with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. When I first heard of the movie, I had the same reaction as most people: “didn’t they just make this movie?” I never saw No Strings Attached, so I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty confident that the two movies have the same. exact. plot.
Anyway, because people were telling me it was funny and different from what I would expect, and because I’ve always liked Mila Kunis, I gave Friends with Benefits the benefit of the doubt. (I should have listened to the Betches. I almost always agree with them!)
Here’s the thing: if I had gone to see it simply because I was bored or whatever, I would have no complaints. It was exactly what I expected it to be – just a cutesy romantic comedy. It’s not the best one I’ve ever seen, but also not the worst. However, because I went into it with expectations of being pleasantly surprised by its hilarity and uniqueness I feel compelled to explain why I was not at all pleasantly surprised by either of those things.
First of all, it has the most predictable plot line of all time. Spoiler alert: being just friends with benefits doesn’t work out; they fall in love at the end (shocking). Second of all, the acting was, at best, sub-par.
When the movie started, I began to get annoyed with Mila. She comes into the movie as a quirky, cute-in-a-clumsy-way fast-talking New Yorker. She’s the typical “romcom” heroine – pretty girl with strange and endearing habits. I thought, “great she’s going to irritate me the whole movie and I’m not going to like her anymore.” As the movie went on, though, and we got to know her character, Jamie, I warmed up to her. She did a good job of showing the evolution of her character and letting the audience see how vulnerable Jamie really is. Her performance is believable and relatable: she’s totally confident and put-together until a man comes around and makes her revert to a swooning love-struck fairy tale character.
However, while Mila becomes increasingly more enjoyable to watch, Justin became increasingly more painful to watch. After a great performance in The Social Network, and a semi-funny role in Bad Teacher, I was beginning to like him as an actor. But he really blew it with this movie. Maybe he just couldn’t handle playing an average guy, but his character, Dylan, comes off as just totally annoying. Whereas Jamie evolves throughout the movie, Dylan stays basically the same. I think the idea was for him to seem like a really cool big-shot in the beginning and slowly become more vulnerable as we find things out like that he has issues with his family, and has a fear of heights and math. But he just seems kind of nerdy from the beginning, and all these little bits of information don’t come off as cute. I just didn’t really get his character.
So, now that I have ripped the movie apart, I will give it some credit. Especially since, like I said, it’s not so bad in comparison to other movies of it’s kind. There are a few good parts.
My favorite being any scene with Jamie’s mom played by Patricia Clarkson. A crazy hippy-nomad, she bursts in on Jamie and Dylan and immediately starts throwing out hilarious one-liners. “I’m hungry, where’s the gin?” I laughed straight through her entrance scene. Also funny is the fake romantic comedy that Jamie and Dylan watch and compare their experiences to. The fake movie stars Jason Segel and Rashida Jones so naturally, anything Jason Segel touches is funny.
Richard Jenkins plays Dylan’s father, who is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer. More than the love story, the story of Dylan and his sister’s struggle to take care of a father who is well aware that he is slipping away is definitely touching.
All in all, sorry to those who really loved the movie, but my advice is: don’t pay $11.00 to see a movie with no plot twist. Wait a few months and rent it on Netflix when you’re bored at home and there’s nothing on Bravo.