There have been two comedies this year that have based their narrative around the purported idea of ‘sex without emotions’, three if you include Love and Other Drugs; Friends with Benefits is the last to jump on the bandwagon. Despite its late addition to a fast-tiring genre, the Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis coupling here is not only the most convincing, but certainly the most enjoyable: considering the company however, that’s not much of a worthy accolade.
Notably, the Will Gluck-directed film (known for his excellent Easy A), is the only film out of the three to actually feature two people who, prior to engaging in a sexual relationship, were genuinely friends first. Jamie (Kunis), in the course of her job as an Executive Recruiter, comes into contact with Dylan (Timberlake), an Art Director based in LA. Believing him to be perfect for an available role at GQ, Jamie invites Dylan to New York, courting him into accepting the job by showing him the delights New York has to offer.
Uprooted from his family in LA, Dylan, now not knowing anyone in New York aside from Jamie, invites her to lunch – the two quickly become friends. Both single, the pair express a desire for sex without emotional attachments, stating that they simply miss the physical act – the pair decide that their friendship can withstand their indulgence in the physical.
Thus the two embark on a purely sexual relationship – this being a romantic comedy, the resolution is clear from the start. As with all romantic comedies then, it is the journey towards the inevitable upon which the film lies. Friends with Benefits, after a fairly snappy opening, rapidly descends into moments of boredom, feeling needlessly overlong.
Kunis and Timberlake certainly have great chemistry: the pair are infinitely more watchable than the couplings of the other aforementioned films, but this chemistry is not enough to sustain the entire film. The film, with its 15 certificate, indulges in a little child-like revelry at times – using ‘fuck’ needlessly, depicting nudity for mere titillation at times, rather than any real attempt at narrative progression.
After Gluck’s enjoyable Easy A, Friends with Benefits feels lethargic in comparison – perhaps with a better, sharper script, Friends with Benefits could have been greatly improved. Certainly Timberlake and Kunis deserve a better comedy to really showcase their talents.