Starring: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis
Spoiler alert below (but take a wild guess how this one ends)
Just weeks after the critically acclaimed mind-bender “Black Swan” hit theaters, leading lady Natalie Portman appeared on the silver screen opposite Ashton Kutcher in “No Strings Attached”: a movie all about casual sex.
Six months later, her “Black Swan” co-star Mila Kunis appeared in “Friends with Benefits”: a complete rip-off of “No Strings Attached” that, surprisingly, received much better reviews than its counterpart.
Given that all good things come in threes, we know exactly what this means: In about six months we’ll see Vincent Cassel is the classiest movie about sex since “Deliverance.”
Until then, we’re stuck watching Timberlake and Kunis rip each other’s clothes off, which — all in all — isn’t too unpleasant. It’s just when the sex ends and Timberlake pretends to act that the movie flops.
And it certainly doesn’t help that “Friends with Benefits” is the most predictable film since “Titanic.” (Spoiler alert: The boat sinks the end of that one.)
In the interest of full disclosure, I was late and missed the first 15 minutes of “Friends with Benefits,” but when I walked in, it appeared as though Kunis was playing the role of Jamie, a headhunter who recruits Timberlake’s character, Dylan.
(You know movies are destined for success when the leads don’t have last names.)
Fortunately, the movie is easier to follow than “The Little Mermaid.”
Dylan moves from Los Angeles to New York for his new job, where he is successful and well liked by everybody, including his gay-and-proud co-worker Tommy (played by Woody Harrelson). At the end of the day, Dylan returns home to his enormous downtown apartment that surely costs upward of $30,000 per month.
Life is good for Dylan, and it gets a little better when one drunken night, he and Jamie decide to have sex for the physical pleasure of the act and nothing more. No feelings. No emotions. Just meaningless sex.
With no consequences, Dylan and Jamie are brutally honest with each other about their most intimate details. Of course, what starts as a one-time fling quickly escalates into a steady stream of sex with increasing awkwardness (such as when Jamie’s mom walks in on them and assumes Jamie has a new boyfriend).
Perhaps you remember the first time your mom walked in on you and Justin Timberlake. Wasn’t it hard to convince her that you two were not a couple? What a pain.
Much like how both Dylan and Jamie are at the acme of their happiness in their relationship during their random sex, the movie functions best here. The humor draws legitimate laughs with its raunchy jokes reminiscent of “Me, Myself & Irene,” often thanks to Timberlake’s physical style of humor.
The conflict comes when they both internally know they want the relationship to be about more than sex, but they won’t admit it to themselves, despite the fact that literally everyone else in the movie is pointing it out to them.
Timberlake is almost as unbearable as Roseanne Barr when he tries to act serious, and it makes the view want to reach out, give him a smack on the forehead and say “no.” Kunis does a much better job of bringing out the mixed emotions, although the dragging plot weighs on her talents.
Of course, Dylan and Jamie work out their problems, and — in a surprise twist ending — they start their relationship over.
Come on, it’s not like you didn’t know that’s how it was going to end. Where’s M Night Shyamalan when you need him?
So what’s the message here? Sex complicates everything? Don’t jeopardize your friendships? Keep sex as something special?
Pretty much any of these fit the bill, and it’s not worth a full price ticket to let the movie teach you that lesson.