Sarah Knight Adamson and Jessica Aymond are both Members of the Chicago Film Critics Association

Chicago Film Critics Association

Film Rating Code:

★★★★ Outstanding Film- Run, don’t walk to the nearest movie theater.

★★★½ Excellent Film- Highly recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★★ Very Good Film- Recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★½ Good Film- Wait for the DVD, the film is still worth viewing.

★★ Wait for the DVD and proceed with caution.

★½ Wait for the DVD the film has major problems in most areas.

★ Can’t recommend the film.

Friends With Benefits (R) ★★★

Shia LeBeouf as

Mila Kunis and Justin TImberlake in “Friends With Benefits”

I Thought “No Strings Attached” Already Came Out?

What guy wouldn’t love a gorgeous, tough, witty, no-emotions-involved kind of girl? What girl wouldn’t love watching 109 minutes of triple threat, Justin Timberlake? Director/Producer Will Gluck (“Easy A” 2010) certainly knows how to win an audience over in his latest rom-com, “Friends With Benefits.”

In this raunchy flick, the “emotionally damaged,” Jamie (Mila Kunis, “Black Swan” 2010) and Dylan (Justin Timberlake, “The Social Network” 2010) are challenged as their past relationships continually hit the fan. These two troubled serial daters link up when Jamie, a corporate headhunter in New York, convinces Dylan, an earthy, laid back, California boy, to make the move to the Big Apple for the Art Director position at GQ Magazine. It is fairly obvious that Dylan is incredibly intimidated by the New York scene. Jamie decides to help Dylan “overcome his fears” a.k.a., convince him to take the job offer so she can see her bonus check. She takes him out on the town in hope of selling New York.

Meanwhile, on a high rise rooftop sipping drinks, Jamie’s friend, Shaun White (yes, the skateboarder/snowboarder, two-time Olympic gold medalist who highly resembles Carrot Top) introduces himself to Dylan and immediately decides he is not a fan. Later, with the intention of protecting Jamie, White basically tells Dylan he’s a dead man. It is rather comical to witness the typically soft-spoken Olympic gold medalist go off on Justin Timberlake. Luckily, this is not the last we see of White.

The talented leads wouldn’t look as good as they do without the stellar supporting cast. Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger” 2009) plays Tommy, the incredibly self-assured gay Sports Editor at GQ who adds hilarity to each and every one of his scenes. In fact, I actually thought he stole the show over Timberlake. Patricia Clarkson, who played the unconventional mother in “Easy A” (2010), is back at it again as Jamie’s single, alcoholic, space cadet of a mother who walks in on Jamie and Dylan as they are defining the term ‘friends with benefits.’ Jenna Elfman (“Love Hurts” 2009), Richard Jenkins (“Hall Pass” 2011) and Nolan Gould (ABC’s “Modern Family” 2009-2011) make for a believable immediate family of Dylan. His father (Jenkins) is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and his family can’t quite come to terms with it just yet. These unexpected scenes certainly add some compassion to the film.

Kunis and Timberlake are incredibly talented, although I didn’t sense the chemistry I anticipated. It seems as though there is more chemistry between them during their promos for this film than in the actual film itself. Obviously, in the beginning they’re not supposed to like each other like “that way” but their connection just didn’t seem as believable to me.

As expected, this film has many embarrassing and awkward scenes – for both the actors and the viewers. Although there were several laugh out loud moments throughout the movie, it definitely had more potential. In real life, Timberlake is incredibly witty and charming and it would have been nice to see more of this in the film. I also found it interesting that some of the very serious scenes were immediately interrupted by weak and ill-timed jokes. Why ruin the moment? There was also an ongoing joke that Dylan never really learned math, especially multiplication. This joke was way overcooked. In one scene (of about four), Dylan and Jamie trespass the hill bearing the Hollywood sign. Dylan tries to mentally measure how high the barbed wire fence is and realizes it is taller than he thought, standing at “6×3 = 93” feet. I don’t really think there is any other way to say it – this was just stupid.

Timberlake does redeem himself, however. After making a few short references to his favorite throw back song, Timberlake finally busts out the moves to his childhood classic, “Jump” by Kriss Kross. It was refreshing to see him in his element, even just for a moment.

Overall, if you’re looking for a rom-com about a strictly physical relationship, I’d have to say “No Strings Attached” trumps “Friends With Benefits.” Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman make their casual relationship more believable and Kutcher’s clever comments beat Timberlake’s overdone I-can’t-do-simple-math scenes. The script lacks originality and overindulges in recycled jokes, perhaps because an almost identical film was released six months prior. However, Kunis and Timberlake are incredibly talented actors with a strong following, so it would not be surprising to see audiences flock to this film.

Bottom Line? Even though “Friends With Benefits” is certainly entertaining thanks to it’s gifted cast, you may want to skip this one if you’re on the fence and have already seen “No Strings Attached.”

Jessica Aymond © July 22, 2011

Posted in Movies 2011

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