Title: Friends with Benefits
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Will Gluck
Screenwriters: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson
Two days after Crazy, Stupid, Love, Friends with Benefits just seemed dispiritingly by-the-numbers and charmless. Director and co-writer Will Gluck – both of whose first two films, Fired Up! and Easy A, I liked quite a bit – tries mightily to liven up the familiar rhythms of the plot, but he’s only occasionally able to add some incidental pleasures (an entertainingly coarse one-liner or bizarre pop culture reference here and there; amusing character work from the likes of Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson; a surprising amount of on-screen sex). Mostly, he’s betrayed by his stars, who are game for anything but can’t do much with it: while Kunis is confident and funny and mostly muddles through, Timberlake is an unconvincing lightweight, really only in his element when doing an impromptu Kriss Kross rap.
The whole thing – which overstays its welcome at two full hours – quickly turns into a mostly painless eye-roller; your mileage may vary based on your level of interest in seeing lots of hanky panky between two very attractive people. Gluck is a talented fellow and has a promising career ahead, but by the time our two unwilling lovebirds embarked on their inevitable third-act break-up on the way to the even more inevitable happy ending (set to the sounds of Supersonic’s “Closing Time,” no less), I was ready to check out.
— Eugene Novikov