Tennis is like ‘Friends with Benefits’


     Writer/Director Will Gluck (Fired Up, Easy A) enlisted the help of Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis (both of whom were buzzing last award season for their work in The Social Network and Black Swan respectively) to bring his latest and best foot forward with Friends With Benefits.

Sure the premise isn’t exactly new, it’s quite worn actually – just last November there was a similar gem of a film Love & Other Drugs with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, and then in January there was No Strings Attached with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher and now there is this.  Despite these three recent films all having the “let’s have sex but no emotional attachment” theme they all share another distinct commonality.  They are all well made and are really, really good stories that are cast and acted so well.

Kunis was a sure fire hit with a script like this and she and Justin Timberlake actually possess a ton of on-screen chemisty.  Is it their looks, their abilities or quick wit?  Who knows, but it’s likely all three of those factors combined.  It’s especially refreshing when you see two actors in roles similar but different to their last major roles.  For Mila Kunis, her last role was in the psycho-thriller Black Swan, and while she comes across genuine in that film in a dramatic, “cool friend” way, she has a different, more vulnerable approach to this film – and it’s refreshing.  Justin Timberlake on the other hand is fresh off the heels of The Social Network and his character initially shows that  “Dylan” is similary mannered to “Sean Parker.”  But, Timberlake eventually embodies the role and becomes an endearing character unique to this film afterall.  He’s sharp tongued and quick witted and has a really nice character arc along the way.  Together these two are quite the film duo – it wouldn’t be so bad to see them paired again down the line – they really are that charismatic together.  And then there’s Woody Harrelson – if you thought he was funny in Zombieland wait til’ you get a load of this, “Are you sure you’re not gay?”

So many really nice one-liners come out of this film that it’s sure to have any filmgoer laughing throughout.  Here’s a couple, there’s just something about questions like the one “Dylan” asks [Regarding Olympic Snowboarder Shawn White – who makes two cameos] “Does the carpet match the drapes?” Gaining a response of, “Nope, they’re hardwood floors if you know what I mean.” There’s even a new concept here, it’s a little something known as “twat blocking,” a nice spin on the common “cock block.”  Just those couple lines should have anyone’s comedy receptors wanting more.  In addition, the bodies are hot (for you ladies and some of you guys out there, I cannot count the number of times the frame catches a butt shot of JT), the sex is hillarious and the story is endearing and well done – it’s just a really nice film that has that perfect amount of quick wit, humor and drama.

Sure, Friends With Benefits isn’t completely original and sure the story, like most romantic comedies is fairly predictable.  But what people should take away from this film most is how it interprets this type of story in a refreshing way.  There is an intimacy between the characters and the audience, something of a shared experience, if you will.  But  those intimate moments that an audience member shares with the story and characters are what make the story and characters relatable and identifiable.  So is it the same plot and premise?  Yes.  Is it the same with different actors?  Yes.  Does that matter?  Absolutely because it makes this particular story unique from the rest like it and once you’ve seen it, the tennis analogy becomes quite a bit clearer.

Friends With Benefits runs approximately just under 2 hours and is rated R.  Go see this movie despite whatever preconceived notions you may be harboring, I’m sure it’ll be worth your money and time.

WIDE RELEASE DATE:  JULY 22, 2011

Grade:  A

-Bobby-james

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