Vulgar bid for honesty
Friend With Benefits
Starring Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson. Directed By William Gluck. 109 Minutes, R16. Reviewed by KYLIE KLEIN-NIXON
One night, while watching a terrible rom-com pastiche – a definite poke at uber-rom-com Sleepless in Seattle – and after one too many beers, they make a pact.
To hell with love, they say. They’re adults, they need sex, they should just use each other for that. Often and gratuitously. But they vow to remain just buddies, no strings attached.
Naturally this all falls to pieces, with ‘‘hilarious’’ results. To say the ending of this film won’t surprise anyone would be disingenuous; it is actually surprising.
But because Friends With Benefits tries desperately to be everything rom-coms are not – honest to the point of vulgarity (the oral sex scene is so on the nose it is actually hilarious), upfront about what really goes on in our heads and beds, and wittily obvious in poking fun at the formula and cliches it’s trying to break down – the happy ending seems trite.
By chickening out so lamely, Friends with Benefits ends up no better than any Katherine Heigl-starring, Nora Effrondirected, Rob Reiner-approved sob-fest that came before it.
In fact, even the reference to rom-com queen Heigl whom Kunis delightfully calls a
Friends with Benefits might be fun for a date night. But don’t expect anything new or different – except the pretty faces. ‘‘stupid liar’’ in one scene, rings pretty hollow by the end.
Kunis’ enormous, tear glistening eyes, filled with adoration for her man, would give Heigl a run for her money any day.
Opposite her, Justin Timberlake is just too metro to be really believable in this role. He’s the ultimate supporting cast, but he just does not have the chops to anchor a film.
He crumbles in his scenes opposite Richard Jenkins, who plays his gnarled and dementia-addled father, and is inert opposite raucous and charming gay sports editor Tommy, played with abandon and glee by Woody Harrelson.
But it is Kunis who really shines in this film. She ends up being the most likable rom-com lady to grace the screens in a long time.
A pity then they felt the need to give even this specimen of youthful gorgeousness an ass double in one scene. What hope is there for the rest of us?