Sunday, December 20, 2015

Friends With Benefits (2011) **

This Mila Kunis/Justin Timberlake vehicle came out the same year as the similarly-themed “No Strings Attached,” which starred Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher in a movie that appears to be about the exact same subject, friends who decide to try having a casual, sexual relationship. It was impossible to tell these movies apart based on the previews, but reviews at the time seemed to favor “Friends With Benefits.” This film may be better than “No Strings Attached” (which I haven't seen), but that doesn't mean it is great.

Kunis plays Jamie, a corporate recruiter who draws Justin Timberlake's Dylan to New York to be an art designer for GQ magazine. The two hit it off and become best friends. When they both find themselves in a cold spell romantically, they decide to become sexual partners, while remaining “just friends.” You can fill in the rest of the plot for yourself.

You don't go into this kind of romantic comedy expecting the unexpected, though. You watch these movies for the charming actors and the chemistry between them, and that's where “Friends With Benefits” falls short. As great-looking as both these actors are, they really aren't given much to do. The story plods along, taking forever to establish their friendship. When they get down to business, the montage of sex scenes is mildly sexy, but the humor is sophomoric, and Kunis uses a body double. The movie gets slightly more interesting when Patricia Clarkson shows up as Jamie's flaky mom, but otherwise it's a drag. Kunis and Timberlake are both good actors, and their chemistry is believable, but the script doesn't give them anything interesting to do or say.

2 stars out of 5