Review: Friends with Benefits (2011)

Friends with Benefits (2011)

Directed by: Will Gluck | 109 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Emma Stone, Rashida Jones, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Andy Samberg, Bryan Greenberg, Nolan Gould, David Walton, Courtney Henggeler, Tiya Sircar, Evelina Pereira, Angelique Cabral

Who would have thought that naive, cute Woody Boyd from the TV show “Cheers” would become the most successful actor on that sitcom? Apart from the Oscar nominations that Woody Harrelson received, the actor has built up an enormous track record in Hollywood. Roles as Mickey Knox in ‘Natural Born Killers (1984), Larry Flynt in ‘The People vs. Larry Flint’ (1996), Carson Wells in ‘No Country for Old Men’ and Tony Stone in ‘The Messenger’ (2009) are etched into the minds of many film buffs. In Roland Emmerich’s disaster film ‘2012’, Harrelson was one of the few positive elements in that film. In ‘Friends with Benefits’, the actor who once belonged to the 50 most beautiful people (People Magazine, 1990) shows himself from a completely different side. He plays hilariously and with great pleasure a gay sports editor at GQ Magazine.

The shining centerpiece in ‘Friends with Benefits’, however, is formed by Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. As Jamie and Dylan, they make ‘Friends with Benefits’ a sexy, but at the same time sweet and warm film. From the first sentences the young couple exchange at the New York airport, you want them to end up together. Traditionally, a lot has to happen before that happens. ‘Friends with Benefits’ subtly ridicules the genre in which it operates, much like ‘Scream’ once did the teen horror genre. The duo regularly refers to how things are much easier in Hollywood, that there are actually still men who fight for their loved one and that the music always enhances the emotions. This fact means that ‘Friends with Benefits’ stands head and shoulders above similar romantic comedies.

Of course ‘Friends with Benefits’ cannot escape following the fixed pattern that has been established for films in the genre. But there’s plenty to enjoy thanks to the funny, intelligent dialogues and the natural-looking situations. The fact that ‘Friends with Benefits’ is so realistic at times is mainly due to the moving performance of Richard Jenkins and Jenna Elfman, who play Dylan’s Alzheimer’s father and sister respectively, and Patricia Clarkson as Jamie’s dodgy, in her own world of living mother. These characters give the two protagonists the opportunity to deepen their characters and fortunately that opportunity is fully exploited. The film doesn’t have to be over-the-top humor, although a hilarious clip at the Hollywood sign can only be called that. And because Jamie is from New York and Dylan from Los Angeles, and a visit to the east coast of the US is also part of the events in the film, Will Gluck’s romkom also features beautiful pictures of both world cities. ‘Friends with Benefits’ is a perfect movie for a night out with anyone. A film to lose your heart to head over heels!

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