Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits

Postmodernism is alive and well. This movie is, on one level, a standard romcom and, on another, a commentary on romcom conventions, taking (pretty obvious) digs at many of the cliches we expect while indulging in several of them itself. There is a “movie within a movie” that is just too awful to be funny at all and also a post-credits sequence that carries on this theme but really should be much funnier, though it still gets a couple of digs in.

If talk of postmodernism makes this film sound intellectual and worthy, that would be wildly misleading; this is a bit of fluff, a fun (and largely it is fun) picture of two glamorous, successful yuppies, “pretty people” having sex while trying to stay friends and not fall in love with one another (no prizes for guessing how that turns out).

Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake play Jamie and Dylan, a corporate headhunter and the art director she recruits for GQ magazine (a rather intrusive bit of product placement, of which there are other examples – iPad, anyone?). Both have “issues”, Jamie has unrealistic expectations of a “Hollywood” romance (this is postmodern, you see) in reaction to her upbringing by a permissive hippy mother while Dylan keeps people emotionally distant due to some family issues of his own.

Dylan’s “issues” are the most convincing, engaging and moving parts of the film. Among other things, his father is suffering from Alzheimers and starting to deteriorate, and this is portrayed sympathetically and sensitively, and his family life, with protective older sister and her son looking after the intelligent but vulnerable father, is likeable even if their beachfront house is nauseatingly perfect.

But this is a comedy so the big test is “is it funny”? The answer for me is yes. It’s not riotously so, though there are enough laugh out loud moments to make it fun. There is a comic sex scene that is nowhere near as funny as that at the beginning of Bridesmaids, largely because we are supposed to like both parties to it and generally, this is nowhere near as funny as that film but it is funny enough. If anything in this film stays with me, I think it will be the scenes with Dylan’s father but it’s not really a memorable film. It’s disposable fun and, as that, it’s an entertaining evening’s watch.

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