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Friends With Benefits

September 7, 2011

By John Leavengood

MY CALL:  Justin Timberlake is always great, but this is the first time that Mila Kunis ever won me over with a role.  Their chemistry is narcotically addictive, the movie is very well-written and I left feeling happy.  I give this a solid “A”.  IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH:  40 Days and 40 Nights, one of my Desert Island movies.

             The story follows Dylan, an artistic web designer turned GQ artistic director by Jamie, a NY head hunter, as he moves to NY and they form a friendship…and then some.  The first few minutes gave the writers a chance to prove that you weren’t wasting your time with this movie.  We are monsooned by a clever mix of classic and rather risqué anecdotal break-up quips as both Dylan (the ever-charming Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (the saucy Mila Kunis) both find themselves single again via synchronous break-ups.  They both make the same claim: that they’ll essentially be sexually aloof and just enjoy themselves.

            For some reason the movie depicts LA folks like they’re from some kind of cow town—extra cautious about crossing the street, mild-mannered, socially naïve, non-confrontational and claustrophobic in the skyscraper-rich concrete jungle.  Likewise, New Yorkers come off as more in-your-face and edgy.  I really think of LA as sort of a drier NY with a tan, but otherwise city folks are city folks.  Despite the constant flinging of pro-NY propaganda both actors are their naturally charismatic, audience-pleasing selves.

            The first (sex) scene that lives up to the movie’s title is a hilariously endearing and very chatty session which seems like a rehearsal before filming a how-to instructional video on sex.  Great moments of this movie include a sex scene montage with a lot of well-placed and relatable dialogue, Woody Harrelson thinking JT is gay, every single Shaun White cameo scene, JT rapping and busting out some old school Criss Cross, and Woody Harrelson choosing Shaun White over Barrack Obama for a GQ cover.  Yup, that’s what America has been reduced to.

            With small roles, the brilliantly cast Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg), Nolan Gould (TV’s Modern Family), and Richard Jenkins (HBO’s Six Feet Under, Burn After Reading) are the sister, nephew and father you want to bring a girl home to meet.  All actors do a perfect job of showing us that they see what Dylan and Jamie don’t.  It reminds me of my own friends waving their hands at me saying “it’s nothing serious” or “we’re just friends” and then getting a wedding invitation a year later.  It’s so cute when they don’t see it yet, isn’t it?

            Kunis and Timberlake’s on screen chemistry is so strong that it just made me feel good whenever they were interacting with one another.  The movie gets tactfully real a bit towards the end, but it should come as no spoiler alert that you feel all warm and fuzzy at the end.  This adorable RomCom is well worth the watch.

Here’s the trailer from our July Preview.

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