What begins as a thoroughly modern romantic comedy eventually reverts back to the conventions that it initially poked fun at. Never the less Friends with Benefits is a very enjoyable and heartfelt take on the genre which is far better than the recent No Strings Attached.
Justin Timberlake (Dylan) and Mila Kunis (Jamie) are perfectly cast as the friends who decide that relationships aren’t worth the hassle and so begin to have casual sex. Having two of Hollywodd’s edgiest young actors in the roles allows the plot seem plausible, and is the reason why doppelganger No Strings Attached miserably failed. The two are also surrounded by great performances. Woody Harrelson steals most scenes as a predatory homosexual sports reporter who breaks away from the hideous stereotypes which Hollywood normally exhibits. Richard Jenkin’s also adds another dimension to the film as Dylan’s father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. This topic is dealt with tastefully, and helps to bring some depth to the character of Dylan.
Friends with Benefits desperately tries to be a ‘modern’ romantic comedy. Apart from its casual attitude to sex, it has gags surrounded everything from I-Pads to Flash mobs and every fad in between. It also pokes fun at traditional romantic comedies as the couple watch clips from a very funny fictional film starring the ever great Jason Segal. Therefore it becomes a huge disappointment when the second half reverts back to all the clichés it managed to avoid in the first. From here on in the plot becomes painfully predictable as the couple are thrown into numerous will they/won’t they scenarios and stock family characters are introduced who add little interest. All of this is a letdown especially when the beginning seemed hell bent on breaking away from ‘typical’ romantic comedies.
Overall Friends with Benefits is a perfectly charming and often funny romantic comedy which sadly never realises its full potential, returning back to tired clichés.