I’ve been putting off writing about Friends With Benefits for awhile because I really don’t have anything nice to say about it. Friends is the latest film from Easy A‘s Will Gluck. Gluck tries to present Friends as an atypical romantic comedy, even including a fake romantic comedy film-within-a-film starring Jason Segal and Rashida Jones to point out the stupidity of typical “rom-coms.” In reality, however, this movie still ends up being cliche-ridden, unfunny, and predictable.
Friends stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as unlucky in love friends, Dylan and Jamie, who decide to pursue a sexual relationship while remaining just friends. Of course, this leads to complications and you know exactly what they are going to be long before they occur. The trailer, which you can view below, pretty much lays out the entire film with the exception for the depressing left turn it takes during the second half of the movie as we learn about Dylan’s relationship with his father. This subplot is clearly an attempt to give the film some added depth and to force Jamie to see Dylan in a slightly different light, but it doesn’t fit the tone of the movie at all and complete derails what little momentum it may have had. The movie also suffers from heavy handed product placement throughout the worst examples of which promote the iPad and drag out into the closing credits.
I entered the film someone who was starting to buy into Justin Timberlake as an actor from his appearances in The Social Network and Saturday Night Live, but in Friends he’s just distractingly annoying. Timberlake appears to be desperately trying to carry the unfunny film with his over-the-top acting. He even somehow managed to perform a Kriss Kross song without it being particularly funny. Timberlake sells a running joke about the band Third Eye Blind with as much conviction as possible, but it’s just never funny and repeated far too many times.
The one character who did make me laugh was Dylan’s nephew, Sam, played by Modern Family‘s Nolan Gould. Gould plays a young magician who manages to break up some of the tension during the film’s darkest moments. I’m not sure after one viewing whether Gould is actually funny or if it just seemed that way since the movie had drifted into such depressing territory.
The movie also never overcomes the feeling that if you have seen the trailer for the Aston Kutcher/Natalie Portman movie No Strings Attached, then you’ve already seen Friends. It makes you wonder why the Black Swan co-stars Kunis and Portman would follow that Oscar nominated film up with such similar flicks.
Having said all of that, at the screening I attended the movie received applause as the credits rolled. It definitely left me feeling out of touch. Maybe I don’t know anything about anything.