After watching Friends With Benefits I walked down the street and rented No Strings Attached. I needed a refresher on what exactly happens in that movie. If you've seen the trailers for both, or as you can easily deduce from their titles that these are basically the same movie - just released six months apart. Upon second viewing, No Strings Attached doesn't live up to my slightly over-hyped review, and solidifies my initial judgment that Friends with Benefits wins the contest for 2011's best friends-who-think-they'll-stay-friends-after-sleeping-together movie.
In what are essentially the same movie, both films center around the idea of two super-hot singles having casual sex, while trying to stay just friends. Ha, good one. Each films feature a ballerina from Black Swan, and in Friends with Benefits head-hunter Jamie (Mila Kunis) recruits Dylan (Justin Timberlake) for an art director position at GQ and when he moves to New York for the job the two become BFF.
Friends with Benefits had the potential to be a great anti-romantic comedy. Throughout the film both Jamie and Dylan mock rom-com clichés, which includes a fake movie within the movie staring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones. While the movie includes some thoughtful honesty about relationships, it also falls hard into the genre it mocks, which actually ends up being OK. While it may have been refreshing to see the two not end up together, a la The Breakup, Dylan and Jamie are perfect for one another. You find yourself rooting for them from their airport meet-cute.
Even though I love Natalie Portman, Kunis proved better in this role. As Jamie, Kunis' fast-talking wit and vulnerability hooked me in, I believed her more. With her breakout roles in Black Swan and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Kunis has proved she's moved on from That '70s Show's Jackie Burkhart. In Friends with Benefits, Kunis shows she's got leading-lady chops and hopefully we'll see her in another smart comedy soon.
Coming off of last year's hilarious teen comedy, Easy A, Will Gluck directs Friends with Benefits, which he co-wrote with Keith Merryman and David A. Newman. Gluck maintains a fast pace throughout the film, which moves the story along with wit and comedic ease. In the end, Friends with Benefits fares better than No Strings Attached because it doesn't try to pull off too many extraneous storylines and distract from the main characters. I think both films prove there really is no such thing as friends with benefits.
Friends with Benefits
Starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake
Directed by Will Gluck