Review: Friends With Benefits

All fluff, no substance – this was what I thought after watching, nay sitting through Friends With Benefits.
Directed by Will Gluck and released in 2011, this romantic comedy is pretty much the same as the others. It takes the perennial, can a boy and girl just be friends, question and attempts to package it in a different way. Continuing a trend started a long time back with When Harry Met Sally, this movie fails to live up to expectations.

Mila Kunis is pretty convincing as the New York head hunter but Justin Timberlake fails to impress as her sweet, goofy counterpart. He comes across as trying too hard but yes, he did bring a smile to my face in some parts. He has his moments, few though they may be. Woody Harrelson is one of the highlights of the film in his cameo as the Sports Editor cum friend to the hero. Even though he has very little screen time, he brings life to the character of the contemporary, self-aware gay man. Richard Jenkins is wasted as Timberlake’s father.

Credit must be given where it is due. This is a movie that has its smart lines and its funny moments. Predictable pace aside, it is true to life in the way the protagonists speak and the way they dress. The language, rife with swearwords, is how today’s generation talks and the movie is contemporary with its portrayal of sex. The film has its ‘aww’ moments. The opening sequence is very nicely shot. It made me want to watch more but then the storyline slowly trickled into something very banal and uninteresting.

The depiction of the protagonists’ parent issues does not do enough justice to the characters and the issues themselves. When dealing with serious issues, there needs to be a certain depth and feeling, which is completely missing. However, they did manage to bring in the “damaged” element. The usual sequence of every romantic comedy made was followed to the tee, making it a boring watch. The background music uses popular music tracks and goes well with the tone of the film.

The movie seems pretty much the same as No Strings Attached, a movie on the same theme starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. It must be said though, that the movie is a complete popcorn flick, perfect for a girls’ sleepover or pyjama party. It does not have any deep meaning or hidden message and with its 104 minute runtime, is over before you know it. The movie will draw an audience of drooling men, with Mila Kunis still riding high on the Black Swan wave. Justin Timberlake will draw in the female audience, with those charming blue eyes and rock-solid abs. But their good looks cannot salvage this failed film. Their attempts at being sweet in that oh-so romantic way falls flat at every turn.

Personally, I wouldn’t pay to watch this film in a theatre. Also,I will not be able to watch it more than once. There is only that much of shallowness and predictability one can take.

Ayesha Sruti Ahmed