Friends with Benefits is a rom-com with the twist. It takes two characters Jamie (Mila Kunis) and Dylan (Justin Timberlake) who, sick of the cliches of Hollywood rom-coms, decide to embark on a purely physical relationship – hence the title. Unfortunately, it is not a very original idea.
Jamie is a high-powered recruitment consultant who convinces Dylan to relocate to New York for a new job. Cue a montage of scenes showing New York as bold, exciting and quirky. The pair hang out drinking beer and chatting about the cliches of Hollywood romance. They then decide that friendship isn’t enough and the “benefits” aspect comes into play, but can they keep the physical and emotional apart?
There are some laugh out loud moments in Friends with Benefits and this is in part down to Justin Timberlake. Sceptics will no doubt jump on the haters bandwagon without watching the film, but his comic timing is actually very good. While Kunis is able to deliver lines like she’s channeling Juno as a fast-talking character able to provide one-liners to comedic effect.
The script though has quite a poor opening with the first amount of laughter not arriving till 20 minutes into the movie. Friends with Benefits never quite recovers from its poor start and lacks that central heartbeat which other films in the genre do so well. From the initial flash-mob scenes to Justin Timberlake’s naked torso – there is a sense of underlying superficiality. The characters are not that believable and neither is the script.
Fortunately though, Timberlake and Kunis have a good on-screen chemistry which helps to carry the film. Without these two leads the film would not be as enjoyable as it is. There’s a lot of sexual chemistry between the two and they bring forward a natural life to the film.
The problem with Rom-com’s which try and subvert the genre is that, more often than not, they never do. Throughout Friends with Benefits there are references to popular culture and romantic portrayals in cinema. Yet, when it comes down to it the film falls into the same pitfalls. Friends With Benefits spends too much time insulting rom-coms and claiming not to be one, when it could just embrace the genre tropes for what they are and still be an enjoyable experience.