Mini-Review: Friends With Benefits (2011)

Starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Nolan Gould

Directed by Will Gluck

Expectations: None, I just hope it’s not too painful.

Just to keep everyone guessing, I have to review a straight-up mainstream movie like this once in a while. Most of the time I have such an indifferent response to these films that I can’t muster the mental power needed to write a full review. Friends With Benefits is pretty much in the same category, but I do have a few thoughts to share. It’s better than No Strings Attached, let’s just get that out of the way. No Ashton Kutcher is a huge plus, but it’s really the R Rating that helps a lot here, allowing the characters freedom to curse as they naturally would and making the sex scenes adequately steamy.

Both Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis do a great job with the material they are given, giving us a believable on-screen relationship with a minimum of groan-worthy scenes. The supporting cast is also filled out with lots of good actors such as Woody Harrelson, Jenna Elfman and Patricia Clarkson (playing virtually the same character she played in Easy A). While I enjoyed Harrelson as the cock-obsessed gay man, I can’t help but wonder how intelligent gay men reacted to this character. They deserve better than to have broad stereotypes reinforced. And if we’re going down that rabbit hole, where were the people of color in this film? I think almost every one in the movie is white.

As a piece of art, it fails miserably. Director Will Gluck creates a textbook mainstream film with more ugly close-ups and over-the-shoulder shots than I care to think back on. I’m sure the paycheck was great though. He previously made Easy A, another poorly-shot mainstream comedy and one that I just couldn’t understand the hype for. It’s hard for me to watch these ugly, lazy films without losing my shit, but the charm of both Kunis and Timberlake surprisingly went a long way.

As a comedy, it fails less so, but it still contains far too little laughs. I especially enjoyed the fake romantic comedy they watch throughout the film, which features some incredibly funny lines within it, perfectly lampooning the tired genre. What’s unfortunate is that to make a romantic comedy, the story kind of has to follow that general path that they all follow and Friends With Benefits is no different. Oh, and the Barnes and Noble joke was my biggest laugh of the movie. Perhaps not the most clever line in the world, but seriously, buying full prices books really is dumb shit.

Friends With Benefits does a lot wrong, but it does just enough right to make it not as painful as it could have been. It’s way too fuckin’ long though, coming in at almost two hours. I’d only recommend it if you like the leads enough to see them get jiggy wit it.

7 comments to Mini-Review: Friends With Benefits (2011)

  • I’m ALWAYS up for seeing Kunis get jiggy with anyone or anything. Nice review, my man, for a straight up mainstream film. I have yet to see this (it’s in the big pile of films on my desk, though) but a lot of the reviews (even this one) have been positive so I hold onto the hope it’s not entirely a waste of time.

    • Hahaha, “anyone or anything” sounds a bit broad, but I fully support the sentiment. She’s gorgeous.

      Don’t expect anything and it should entertain at a shallow level. It’s too long though.

  • Nice review Will. Friends With Benefits is a dumb, by-the-numbers romantic comedy. Yet I kept finding small things to enjoy in it, mainly because of the two hard-to-hate leads.

    • Yeah the leads do a good job of selling the tired romantic comedy tropes, don’t they? It’s shallow fun, nothing more, nothing less. And I don’t feel like I wasted too much time on it, so that’s something!

  • Dan

    Mila Kunis definitely has something about her that I like but I can’t stand Timberlake – in anything! So, as much as it pains me to turn my back on Mila, I must for the greater good of my sanity.

  • Beauty

    I have to agree on your last statement the most. I will quote “Friends with Benefits does a lot wrong, but it does just enough right to make it not as painful as it could have been.” The reason that I agree with this is because some parts were really not needed at all. When my friends and DISH co-workers were talking about it and telling me it was I thought it would have been a lot better but I didn’t like some things about it. Now don’t get me wrong because Mila and Justin were great together but some of the story line lacked. I’m really glad I just used my Blockbuster @Home to get it in the mail rather than going to over paid for it at the movies. Oh well still a good enough movie to see if you haven’t!

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