© Sony Pictures Releasing GmbH

Freunde mit gewissen Vorzügen (Friends with Benefits)
U.S.A. 2011

Opening 8 Sep 2011

Directed by: Will Gluck
Writing credits: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, Harley Peyton
Principal actors: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg

Friends with Benefits opens with the main characters being simultaneously dumped: Dylan (Justin Timberlake) by his girlfriend in Los Angeles, and Jamie (Mila Kunis) by her boyfriend in New York City. Both Dylan and Jamie decide from then on out to never get emotionally attached to anyone, ever again. Three thousand miles apart, each declares that all their following relationships will be feelings free, just like George Clooney’s. Veteran romantic comedy fans know instantly that these two, who have yet to meet, are bound to end up together….but just how? In this ultra-modern and fast paced film, Jamie, a successful headhunter, phones Dylan in Los Angeles to recruit him to come to New York to interview to be art director at GQ magazine. They meet, he accepts the job, they fall into a relationship, and, yes, eventually they do fall in love, though it takes them a while to figure that out.

Once in New York City Dylan and Jamie become close friends, he taking on the persona of being emotionally unavailable to women, and she being too emotionally damaged to love a man. Her failed attempt at another relationship is the impetus for an experiment with her best friend Dylan. Since both have physical needs (like a crick in the neck), why not just have sex with each other. Dylan is quick to agree and flippantly compares sex to playing tennis. Not wanting to jeopardize their friendship, they make a vow to stay friends. Jamie takes her iPad, pulls up her Bible App, and they take an oath on it. Jamie: “No relationship, no emotions, just sex.” Dylan: “Whatever happens we stay friends.”

Jamie’s New York City never looked better. There are scenes at the Hudson River, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Times Square, and Grand Central Station. Dylan’s LA looks quite enticing, too. Featured sites are nearby Malibu beaches, Mann’s Chinese Theater, Union Station, and the Hollywood sign. Not to give too much away: one city hosted two flash mobs, and the other had Dylan and Jamie sitting in the second O of the iconic sign. Every generation has the kind of romantic comedies it deserves. There were Hepburn and Tracy, Doris and Rock. This film is more reminiscent of When Harry Met Sally. The question, can a man and a woman have a genuine friendship without romantic entanglements, is taken to next level, can a man and woman have casual sex and remain best friends. The answer to both questions is pretty obvious, no surprise ending here. While throughout the film there is an underlying homage paid to classic romantic comedies, there is nothing trite about Friends with Benefits. The filmmakers go out of their way to sidestep the clichés that viewers of romantic comedies have been conditioned to expect. Embedded in the movie there is even a fictional movie that lovingly spoofs all the traditional romantic moments that this film does so well to avoid. Well-placed clues about the movie ending with the happy couple riding in a horse drawn carriage are nixed in the final scene by a disinterested leading man and a relieved leading lady who admits, anyway, she has an allergy to horses. Welcome to 2011. Dylan proves his love for Jamie by conjuring up a flash mob in Grand Central Station, not a horse drawn carriage in Central Park. (Pat Frickey)

Second Opinion

In this feel-good comedy Jamie (Mila Kunis) and Dylan (Justin Timberlake) are successful young professionals in New York City. Their outlook is pragmatic and efficient: work and play hard. This also goes for relationships. By mutual agreement they spend (too many) hours in bed together, strictly avoiding any romantic feeling. It’s all body, no heart. Once you’ve realized pretty quickly that they will fall in love complete with messy commitments, disappointments and paradise, you can settle down and enjoy the one-liners (“Harry Potter doesn’t make you gay.” The Hollywood sign is “the only landmark this town has besides the Scientology Center.”) Patricia Clarkson plays Jamie’s irresponsible, hippy mother Lorna, who occupies her daughter’s apartment between her own romantic affairs. Woody Harrelson is Tommy, a gay co-worker. They realize even faster than we do, that love is in the air and encourage the romance. Shaun White, the U.S. Olympic gold medal snowboarder playing himself, competes with Dylan for Jamie’s attention. Although there have been enough films with the same old sorry theme to make this one a cliché, the actors, of which one is New York City itself, are worth your commitment. And, in spite of the age-old topic, this is definitely a modern-day film where people meet in a flash mob and swear on a Bible app. And Timberlake even sings a few notes, reminding us that he is an all-around guy – pop singer as well as actor. (Becky Tan)

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