All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Friends with Benefits – you’ve seen it before

Ok, I was going to do a highlight reel from the summer but that’s a good column for next week when I’m close to comatose and not really wanting to take my brain out of neutral.
So let’s look at Friends With Benefits, a movie you may have enjoyed earlier this year when it was released as No Strings Attached.
That movie starred Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman as two busy professionals who decide to add a sexual element to their friendship without any emotional strings attached. How clever.
In that film, things were good for a short period of time and then there were emotional attachments going on and, of course, the inevitable happy ending.
In Friends With Benefits, Justin TImberlake and Mila Kunis play two busy professionals who really aren’t friends for very long before they decide to have sex with each other on a mostly clinical level. You might say, with no strings attached.
Can I just stop here for a moment and say that I really don’t get the whole Justin Timberlake as an actor thing? In similar news, I’m not going to see the musical Kevin Costner or Tim Robbins. They both have bands I guess so they can be irrelevant in two mediums. But I digress.
There is actually some onscreen chemistry between Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Kunis) and that helps a little bit, but for the most part they’re two mildly irritating people who most of us wouldn’t want to be friends with, benefits aside.
Look, the whole Friends With Benefits thing was invented by the same people who came up with the idea of quality time for absentee parents. It’s a rationalization, a relationship unicorn. It’s mostly mythical even if some people in Kansas and Missouri have seen them. Really it had to be invented by a man… I mean helloo. We get to have sex and not ask you about your day or cuddle after? Then again, women are the new men, so who knows who came up with this.
They keep focusing on what good friends they are but they barely knew each other before they were doing the horizontal bop. She’s a head-hunter who coaxed him to come to New York City for a huge opportunity and he’s just totally vanilla and borderline whiny. She’s no picnic either.
There are some laughs here. Woody Harrelson is hilarious as an aggressively gay co-worker who’s constantly recruiting for his team. It’s a nice role and well written.
Both Dylan and Jamie have troubled relationships with their parents.
Jamie’s mom, the always interesting Patrica Clarkson (Station Agent) is unreliable and rumoured to be overly indiscreet with her affections. She doesn’t remember Jamie’s dad although on occasion she elevates him to mythical status. This apparently explains Jamie’s difficulty attaching.
Dylan’s dad is experiencing dementia, and they make this soft and fluffy by having him take his pants off everywhere he goes. I thought this was a writer’s trick and seemed contrived and disingenuous. Still his dad is played by Richard Jenkins, best known for his cereal commercials, but interesting nonetheless. As we learn later during a pantless father-son bonding moment he let the one true love of his life slip away – which may have contributed to Dylan’s mom bailing on the family early on.
This would explain Dylan’s inability to commit.
Hmmmm.
Why did I watch this again?
Oh ya, there was nothing else on.
The one redeeming feature of the film is the sex. It’s funny.
They coach each other. Their direction is pointed and frequent. None of the conventions of worrying about how the other feels is brought into the shagfest because they’re approaching it with a clinician’s zeal.
Here’s the thing.
As mindless summer filler and a goofy romantic comedy it’s fine. It’s cliched, even while the characters are having an ongoing dialogue about cliched Hollywood romantic comedies.
It’s all wonderfully romantic.
The problem I had was they stole the ending from When Harry Met Sally. The dramatic climax is almost a verbatim lift of that film’s conclusion.
Except When Harry Met Sally packed some punch and this just fizzles. To paraphrase TS Eliot in The Hollow Men, this is the way this film ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper. The Hollow Film rolls on.
Look at me going literary reference.
Well I amuse me.
Look, Friends With Benefits isn’t terrible it just isn’t particularly clever and the plagiarism is unforgivable.
The box office numbers reflected that. This seriously under performed although I’m sure it will do well on the rental market.
Get When Harry Met Sally instead. Always go with the original.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: Paul Peterson

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