Friends with Benefits
Sappy rom-com fails to deflate clichés of the genre
The rom-com has been a moribund genre for years now, excepting Marc Webb’s acerbic and adventurous (500) Days of Summer. Despite promising a similarly caustic examination of the gap between real-life relationships and romantic clichés, Will Gluck’s star vehicle merely anthologises over-familiar tropes.
Jamie (Black Swan’s Mila Kunis) is a supposedly hard-nosed NYC talent scout with a soft spot of Hollywood romances due to an absent father and lovelorn mother (Patricia Clarkson). A routine assignment with designer Dylan (Justin Timberlake) leads to causal friendship, and regular bouts of sex. But Jamie’s passion for rom-coms has taught her that strings are attached, and soon she and Dylan are falling in love for real.
Gluck’s debut, teen flick Easy A, offered a saltier view of relationships than the sappy Friends With Benefits, which pretends to deflate clichés while studiously observing them. Devices like a flash-mob musical sequence, which brings the couple together, reek of Hollywood contrivance, while sentimental manipulations involving Dylan’s dad (Richard Jenkins) and his struggle with Alzheimer’s are equally corny.
For all its dirty talk and supposed frankness about sex, Friends with Benefits has little in the way of laughs, romance or truth; it’s just as bland a confection as the vanilla rom-coms it apes.
General release from Fri 9 Sep.