After starring in the most talked about sex scene in the award-winning and wickedly fun film Black Swan, Mila Kunis‘ lead role in the movie Friends with Benefits seemed dangerously exciting. But then again, expect to be surprised.
In fact, Loquacious Friends with Benefits or even Chatter between the Sheets are more accurate titles for a romantic comedy, that its almost a race between two competing activities: sex and talk. I am still not sure, but I think talk won.
Kunis is Jamie, an adorable and effective corporate headhunter who perhaps has found her match in Dylan (Justin Timberlake) the latest professional recruit who happens to be a hip art director from California. After a whirlwind tour of NYC that concludes with a flash mob in Times Square, Dylan decides to accept the job offer and the two begin a friendship. Before long (can you blame them?) these kids, who are both coming off relationships, decide they can have their cake and eat it too.
Are we friends? Yes. Are we young and beautiful? Definitely. Are we horny? For sure. Should we have sex with no strings attached? Yeah, but wait … isn’t this the name of another recent movie on a similar topic? Indeed … and if only those two leads (as in Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher) had had half the chemistry that Kunis and Timberlake have, then THAT movie may have had a chance.
When you have a romantic comedy about sex, we need to believe the two people having the sex actually like each other. And Kunis and Timberlake are more than believable. She is the Hepburn to his Tracy, the Bacall to his Bogart, the Laurel to his Hardy. Their chemistry is that good. Yet, strangely, the sex scenes are just not that sexy. Maybe they should have been stars back in the days when stars never had sex. In fact, Kunis and Timberlake seem much more sexual and sexy when they chat at a rapid fire clip while walking down the street, than when they are giving each other specific instructions of what to do between the sheets.
The narrative is well served by a clever and agile script by Director Will Gluck and co-writers Keith Merryman and David A. Newman. There is so much going on in this dialogue that you may be exhausted just trying to keep up with it. And then there is the inevitable. Perhaps only Mick Jagger believes that friends with benefits is an actual real term that means what it says and says what it means. Not so much for us mere mortals. Sooner or later someone will crumble and ask for more. Jamie meets this seemingly perfect doctor (Bryan Greenberg) who seems too good to be true. In comes Dylan to mend her heart and soul and introduce her to his family in the process. You see, even his dad (the always terrific Richard Jenkins) as debilitated by Alzheimer’s as he is, can see that his son and Jamie are meant to be together. If only Dylan could see what Jamie sees, then there could be a future … Let’s just say some tears, drama and a flash mob later, the kids figure out what is right for them.
Very few people can look as sexy and believable as Kunis walking disheveled and in the highest heels all over a jaundiced looking Manhattan. Only Sarah Jessica Parker comes to mind. Kunis and Timberlake both look terrific in clothes and out of them. But they can also act. She is a talent whose best years are still ahead of her and we are lucky he is acting more than he is dancing … and he IS a good dancer. However, for a movie about sex and friendship, in that order, the sexual scenes are more comical than sexual and perhaps the weakest link in the movie. But forget the sex. This is smart romantic comedy about beautiful and smart people who like to talk. Who needs sex when you can talk?
MPAA rating: R (for sexual content and language)
Credits: Directed by Will Gluck; written by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and Gluck; produced by Gluck, Martin Shafer, Liz Glotzer, Jerry Zucker and Janet Zucker. A Screen Gems release. Running time: 1:44.