*** (THREE STARS)
“That’s not Third Eye Blind”
Will Gluck’s new film, Friends With Benefits, may seem less than it is, comparatively speaking, after he directed the great Easy A less than a year ago, and it may seem cliche and hackneyed since No Strings Attached was released not too long ago as well, a film with the exact same premise: A guy and a girl try and make a relationship work with emotionless sex, but of course (and thankfully), they find that they can’t continue having sex and not have feelings for each other. But in spite of all that, it’s still a really good film.
This movie will undoubtedly offend a great many people with it’s premise alone, but the message, to me at least, is still leaning in the positive direction. The film holds that no matter how hard we humans wish, for our own selfish needs, that sex wasn’t anything special, it still is, and its mysterious ways we still cannot fully understand, but no matter what, sex should never be taken lightly. I can tolerate that message, for it is far better than the characters getting away with no strings attached sex. Call me old-fashioned, but I still hold that that act is something very special and spiritual, and it would be interesting to see Hollywood approach it from a different angle. But I digress.
This film sets out to be anti-cliche, but in the end circles back to it’s cliche roots as a romantic comedy, but the journey was enjoyable and entertaining at least, if mostly predictable.
What made this film stand out were the great performances by all involved, especially an energetic, witty performance from the great Woody Harrelson. Timberlake and Kunis really do have great chemistry, and their story isn’t rushed, but given careful consideration and developed well. Gluck still knows how to deliver great performances from his actors, he hasn’t lost anything in the directing department. It was just the script that he was working with this time that was lacking a bit. But only a bit.
There are other stories taking place in this film too, especially with the characters’ parents. The scenes with their families are always touching and emotional, and at times truly heart-breaking and thought-provoking. The performances are all convincing and spot on.
You can guess what the set-up and beginning of this movie is, and if you know anything about cliche romantic comedies then you can guess a thing or two about the middle and end as well. I won’t say anything more about it, except that it is deeper than your average romcom, but it isn’t far away from it’s cliche, predictable roots.
What makes this film work is the delivery. It’s fun and entertaining to watch these characters interact with each other, and Justin Timberlake redeems himself after his unfortunate role in Bad Teacher.
And who knew that Shaun White could do more than just snowboard like a madman? He’s a funny, talented guy indeed.
Rated R for sexual content and language.
Running time: 109 minutes.