**I did not see No Strings Attached, the movie that was released earlier this year with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. There will be no reference or comparisons to it in this review.
Who would have thought that Justin Timberlake would be an actor in legit Hollywood films, especially when he was a boy band heartthrob? Well, apparently he can act well enough to get to play the male lead in Friends with Benefits with Mila Kunis. The film is about just what you think from the title. Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake play Jamie and Dylan who become friends after Dylan moves to NYC from LA to take a job at GQ. Jamie is the headhunter that brought Dylan in for the job. Jamie and Dylan become best friends, hanging out together a lot, when eventually the topic of sex with friends is brought up. They enter into the typical stipulations in a friends with benefits agreement; no cuddling, no emotionality, etc. And we all know (maybe I am being presumptuous) , no matter how good your intentions are, things never quite work out how you want them to in this situation. It does not work out for Dylan and Jamie, either. Things get complicated.
The film opens with a great sequence of events where Dylan and Jamie meet up with their soon to be exes for dates. Andy Samberg plays Jamie’s boyfriend and Emma Stone plays Dylan’s girlfriend. I did not know they were in this movie, granted they were both only in the movie for about ten minutes. I loved Emma Stone and Justin Timberlake banter back and forth about going to see a John Mayer concert. These two small parts by Stone and Samberg were just the first of many cameos and small roles by other highly recognizable actors.
The supporting cast is notable with Woody Harrelson playing a gay coworker of Dylan’s. That did not seem believable to me as I only picked up on that the second or third time he was on screen. Patricia Clarkson plays Jamie’s flaky mom. Jenna Elfman and Richard Jenkins round out Dylan’s family as his older sister and ailing father.
I was a little skeptical on the performance of Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis together in the first third of the movie. I felt like they were mainly just saying the lines. I did not see or feel any real chemistry between them. I kept thinking that Timberlake was on Saturday Night Live, or maybe it was because I thought Justin was just playing himself. I could not get away from that thought. Something was just off for me in the performances. However, the chemistry and believability increased as the movie progressed.
Although the chemistry and acting seemed a bit off kilter, I did find myself laughing quite a lot. This is a funny movie with some great lines and moments that I felt were original. One of the best things about Friends with Benefits is that the film is making fun of itself. Both Dylan and Jamie watch a fake movie within a movie starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones. Dylan and Jamie make fun of the sets, the corny lines, and the music associated with certain moments. This fake movie has attributes that get echoed in the real movie, again and again. Snowboarder Shaun White makes a couple of cameos that try to portray him as a tough guy. “Closing Time” by Semisonic has plenty of airtime in the movie. There are many Harry Potter references, and funny scenes involving Dylan’s poor math skills. I do not want to spoil everything for the viewers, but it is worth paying attention to every detail of the movie.
The tech geeks and iPhone/iPod/iPad users will be pleased with how the technology and touch screens are used. Taking an oath on a Bible app on an iPad made for a funny moment. The end credits were also a nod to the technology we are so familiar with today.
Both guys and girls alike may be flocking to this movie to see some nakedness. Alas, there were only butt shots, but there were plenty of them. Sorry, boys, there is no up top nudity for Ms. Kunis.
I liked Friends with Benefits, but I did not love it. I laughed at the numerous jokes, but the chemistry between Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake left me yearning for a better acting duo. Granted, I thought their performance improved as the movie progressed. This is not an original storyline or plot, but there is plenty of originality in the humor that is used in the movie. I appreciated the nods to technology and the variety of actors who showed up on screen. Do not expect to be blown away by this movie, but rather it is a good movie to see and laugh with “friends” on the supposed non-date you are on.
–Stay after the credits for some bloopers from the fake internal movie.
I give Friends with Benefits 3 “John Mayers” out of 5.