Friends with Benefits

Directed By: Will Gluck

Starring: Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis

The romantic comedies keep coming this summer.  Most of them lack originality and style.  Some even lack genuine romance or comedy.  Nowadays, they're just counter-programming to big blockbusters like Harry Potter and TransformersWill Gluck's Friends with Benefits is another one of these unoriginal, unfunny romantic comedies.  The romance between Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis is there, but the laughs are not.

Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is an art director at a small Internet company in Los Angeles.  Jamie is a headhunter for a job agency in New York.  When she recruits Dylan for an art director position with GQ magazine, he comes to New York for an interview.  He gets the job offer, and Jamie takes him out that night to show him around the city.  After a memorable night with Jamie, Dylan takes the job and moves to New York.  When Dylan starts the new job with GQ, he knows no one in the city but Jamie.  They become friends.  Then they become friends with benefits (Please excuse the pun for the lack of a better term).  Over time, the lines blur between friendship and something more altogether.

The only good thing Friends with Benefits has is the romantic spark between Timberlake and Kunis.  Every moment they share on screen is fueled by this chemistry.  As playful and romantic as they can be on screen however, they're not funny.  I cracked a couple of smiles throughout the flick, but I never really laughed.  Even when the film was more so a satire of the rom com genre, it wasn't funny.  Given how well Timberlake and Kunis play their roles, it's not their fault.  The blame lies with Gluck and his screenwriters.

Gluck's Friends with Benefits is a very formulaic film that adds absolutely nothing to the romantic comedy genre.  It's full of cliches and does not do anything that I could not predict.  Given the film's premise, this was expected to some degree, but it lacked any originality whatsoever.  I could have watched the trailer and would have had enough information to write the movie.  For the kind of star power it has, that's a truly sad statement. 

Another issue with the film is the underlying infomercial for New York City.  It's the ultimate product placement for tourism.  The first half hour of the film is a complete advertisement for the city.  The rest of the film has blatant references to the city that show us how great it is.  Yes, the city is great.  We all know that, and most of us non-New Yorkers have probably visited the city at least once or twice in our lives.  New York is literally the setting for a million movies.  There's no need to shove it down moviegoers' throats that directly.  (DISCLAIMER: I love NYC and visit it regularly.)

The last year has been good for both stars' careers.  Timberlake was in the widely celebrated Social Network, while Kunis was in the equally acclaimed Black Swan.  Given this, I expected a better film from the two of them.  In scenes where Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are simply sitting there watching movies with beer bottles in hand, I was honestly a bit jealous.  There were quite a few times I looked at my watch, and a beverage or two would have helped me pass the time a little better.  For its lack of originality and the many times I looked at my watch wondering when it would end, Friends with Benefits gets a 0.09% rating.