DIR: Will Gluck • WRI: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, Will Gluck • PRO: Liz Glotzer, Will Gluck, Martin Shafer, Janet Zucker, Jerry Zucker • DOP: Michael Grady • ED: Tia Nolan • DES: Marcia Hinds • CAST: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman
Armageddon VS Deep Impact. Volcano VS Dante’s Peak. Capote VS Infamous. Antz VS A Bug’s Life. Whenever two movies with a similar set up are released within the a few months of each other, you can almost hear the ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ chant in the background. And while it would be nice to think that cinema is a broad enough medium to allow two movies about the same thing to co-exist, unfortunately there is always one clear winner. And this year, Friends with Benefits has beat out its competition No Strings Attached by a wide margin.
But this movie actually has less in common with that Kutcher/Portman flop than it does with something all the more surprising… Scream. Both movies are self-aware and post-modern, pointing out the traps within their genre but succumbing to them anyway. Both make pop-references both current (Louis CK! Flash-Mobs!) and ‘classic’ (Seinfeld! Nora Ephron!). Both feature the lead characters watching a bad example of the genre their extracting the urine from (Scream had Stab, and in this case it’s a spot on, so-bad-its-great rom-com starring Jason Segel and Rashinda Jones). But most importantly, both movies have attractive people running around trying not to get hurt, but we know they will eventually.
Justin Timberlake is fine as the recently dumped, new in NY guy with something of a troubled home life. Mila Kunis continues to blur the lines between cute and sexy with yet another lovable turn as a feisty and smart fun-loving creature. There’s some great support from the likes of Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Andy Samberg, Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson and Jenna Elfman. New York is shot to perfection and the dialogue rattles along at the same pace director Will Gluck brought to his surprisingly brilliant hit last year, Easy A.
But the one trump card Scream has over Friends with Benefits was mystery. The ‘who did it/who’s gonna die next’ guessing game can’t be applied to a rom-com, as there is always only one outcome to these scenarios. Everyone and their dog knows these two will end up together, but while watching this, a little part of you will really want these two to remain just friends.
Rated 16 (see IFCO for details)
Friends With Benefits is released on 9th September 2011