Sunday, 11 September 2011

REVIEW: Friends With Benefits

This is the kind of movie where everything around what its about is good, but what it's about is lame.

I think a lot of the problems with the modern Romantic comedy, and arguably modern sitcom, as that they always need a hook. A high-concept contrivance that you can phrase in one line or less, so advertisers have something to work with. But the problem is what is best for advertisers is rarely best for the movies concerned, and it basically means the first 40 minutes are almost entirely about fulfilling the premise to the point in which it can abandon it. Hollywood is more business oriented than it's ever been, and rather than just assume what's good will sell, a financial strategy that's served 90% of the people that have subscribed to it, we get this kind of thing. A movie about a human relationship that you can understand in three words or less.

Currently, hollywood has decided that movies about loveless sex being attractive, but ultimately impossible without falling in love. Hence Love and other drugs, No Strings Attached and now this, the much more literal Friends with Benefits. Sometimes if there's enough talent involved then it doesn't matter how hackneyed a premise may be. You can pretty much skate through anything, and while to be clear Friends With Benefits (A title so glib it makes me gag every time I have to type it) is no classic, it's tolerably OK and not the assault on the frontal lobe that it should have been. It is in many ways the cliched romantic comedy it repeatedly insists that its not, maybe with a bit more carnality and self-awareness then usual but you know, still the same old problems. But thanks to a slightly smarter and quicker script than is usually had for you average romantic comedy, and the general winning nature of both Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, it works better than it had any right to.

The supporting cast is surprisingly strong too, presumably a possibility because of the success of Will Gluck's previous film, the terrific Easy A. You've got Richard Jenkins as Timberlake's father, Patricia Clarkson as Kunis' mother, Woody Harrelson as a gay best friend and cameos from the likes of Emma Stone, Andy Samberg and Jenna Elfman. Again, it falls into the same old romantic comedy traps and about half way through forgets that it is supposed to be funny, and in this case the lighter things were the better things were, but generally the two leads bounced off each other well and the dialogue was much stronger than it usually is so, yay? this is the definition of a muted victory, but the fact that Will Gluck made this kind of movie and it didn't suck makes me thing there's a lot of potential with this guy. I just hope this is his only big studio movie.

Rating: 6/10

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