You know what? I am quite certain that at some point I vowed to never see Friends With Benefits (you might even be able to find it on this blog). But as Estelle Costanza once asked her son George, ‘Why, George? Why?’, I have the same answer: ‘Because it’s there!’
At the end of the day, Friends With Benefits is a movie, and one that has had surprisingly decent reviews — so I watched it. Had I seen it before the inescapable comparison film No Strings Attached (with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher), I might have liked it better than its predecessor. But how is that possible when the two films have virtually the same premise and I like Portman and Kutcher a lot more than Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis? I know the two films were in production simultaneously, but the fact is one came out before the other.
Like No Strings Attached, Friends With Benefits tells the story of two friends who decide to have a sexual relationship without becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. Timberlake is Dylan, a Los Angeles native who moves to New York for a job procured for him by headhunter Jamie (Kunis). The two quickly become friends, decide to become friends with benefits, realise that the arrangement produces problems, and yada yada yada, you know the rest.
To be fair, Friends With Benefits does have its strengths. It has sharp dialogue, great chemistry between Timberlake and Kunis, a few clever laughs and, as usual, a scene stealing performance from Patricia Clarkson. The raunchiness and nudity (despite body double involvement) exceeds No Strings Attached, which I suppose is a plus considering it’s a movie about sex. The film is directed by Will Gluck, who also helmed the surprise comedy hit of last year, Easy A, so you know the quality can’t be too bad.
That said, predictable is predictable. That wouldn’t have been so bad if Friends With Benefits was super funny, but it’s not. I’m not sure if it was because they were trying too hard to be witty, but at times it certainly felt that way. I also had trouble buying the premise that they were genuine ‘friends with benefits’ — to me they were a couple right from the start that just didn’t want to admit they were — or maybe that was the premise? Maybe I’m nitpicking.
Technically, Friends With Benefits was probably the stronger film, but as a matter of personal preference, I thought No Strings Attached was funnier and had more heart.
2.75 stars out of 5
PS: Is this a continuation of the Black Swan dichotomy involving Portman and Kunis? After all, No Strings Attached is more naive, slightly dorky but with more heart, whereas Friends With Benefits is naughtier and cooler.