Today: February 22, 2024
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Friends with Benefits

By Helen Glover – It’s not who you want to spend Friday night with, it’s who you want to spend all day Saturday with.

It’s not who you want to
spend Friday night with, it’s who you want to spend all day Saturday with.

Friends With Benefits – a
self confessed rom-com with a twist. Less love, more sex. Less heart to heart,
more body to body.

When
sharp witted and feisty head-hunter Jamie (Kunis)
lures handsome and successful art director Dylan (Timberlake) from LA to the bright lights of New York, their
chemistry is instant. Both nursing broken hearts and sore egos from failed
romantic misadventures, yet yearning for the human touch, the pair resolve to
embark upon a relationship of convenience.

The
rules: no emotions, just sex. Just friends… with benefits.

The
film explores whether this ‘ideal’ state of non-committal bliss can work in
reality and the pitfalls of this thoroughly modern phenomenon. Touching
sub-plots focusing on Jamie and Dylan’s family lives provide some thoughtful
light and shade to the movie yet the genuine electricity between the pair and
the realistic portrayal of the perils of fast love in a fast city are enough to
satisfy even the most cynical rom-com viewer.

And,
lets be honest, it’ll be a winner with both the male and female contingent –
it’s a classic girl/boy/date pleaser.

But
be warned, this is perhaps not one for a Sunday afternoon outing with the
family, or a 2-4-1 with your Nan. It’s certainly not short of nudity and Kunis
takes many an opportunity to effortlessly remind us why a film about ballet
managed to attract men in their droves.

The
pair are believable as a couple and their chemistry happily doesn’t stop at the
bedroom door. It’s raw and sexy, without being crass. It’s indulgent and
honest, without a hint of the preciousness some of Hollywood’s starlets can
bring to such intimate scenes. There are moments that will make prudes amongst
audiences squirm but mostly encourage steady ripples of smirks, knowing giggles
and a little elbow nudging between couples.

Aside
from her physical allure, Kunis is dynamic and likeable as the ‘emotionally
damaged’ New York city slicker with a soft centre (if you’ll excuse the pun).
She captures the emotional highs and lows of a tumultuous relationship with
confusing rules and expectations perfectly and will strike chords with every
woman who’s ever felt jilted or attempted to navigate the minefield that is
dating.

Timberlake
complements Kunis well as her ‘emotionally unavailable’ best friend and
bedfellow. It will come as a relief to those concerned about his Hollywood
transition that he is easy and convincing to watch, proving himself to be
something of a comedian. The tight curls and snake hips of yesteryear seem
worlds away as he cuts a charming, funny and sensitive character; the kind of
‘good time guy’ you too would genuinely want as a friend and/or with benefits.

At
times, you fear that the film is about to defy all your well placed optimism
and resort to Hollywood schmaltz, but it largely gets away with it. When
viewers are first introduced to Dylan’s father and sister, played by Richard Jenkins (Dear John) and Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Greg), the
plot seems to be veering into ‘moral of the story’ mode, yet the parallel
storylines ultimately balance out to give way to a well-rounded, satisfying –
and for the more susceptible of us – tearjerking, close. All in a
non-bum-numbing 104 minutes.

Let’s
be clear, the film’s ending is predictable from the get-go but the
getting-there and the getting-it-on is so enjoyable that you overlook its
transparency. Groundbreaking it is not, but as a mood lifter and for
entertainment value, it doesn’t disappoint.

And,
so, most importantly, can friends with benefits work?

Essentially,
if you’ve got a flashmob on hand to clear up the trail of debris and
devastation you’ll wreak along the way, sure! If not, tread with trepidation.
You’ll have to go and see the movie to fathom that backhanded advice out…

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