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The Independent Critic

Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Andy Samberg, Emma Stone, Jenna Elfman, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson and Rashida Jones
Will Gluck
David A. Newman, Keith Merryman and Will Gluck
Rated R
109 Mins.
Screen Gems
Commentary with Writer/Director Will Gluck, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis;
Deleted Scenes;

 "Friends With Benefits" Review 
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It's not really difficult to make a romantic comedy. That's what makes it so damn hard.

While Friends With Benefits is far from a perfect romantic comedy, it contains all the necessary ingredients for an entertaining one.

Appealing couple with chemistry?


Zippy one-liners?

Double check.

An abundance of heart?

Most definitely.

The intangible "spark?"


Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is a graphics designer recruited by a headhunter (Mila Kunis) for a job with GQ . The two, as you might guess, become friends with benefits. As you can also likely guess, something called romance is bound to get in the way. While the film bears a thematic similarity to the Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman vehicle No Strings Attached, it actually works on a far greater level. Friends With Benefits ups the raunch, ups the romance and is incredibly funnier than its predecessor. It's also, dare I say, infinitely sweeter.

Much of the film's success has to do with its co-leads, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. With the exception of his only modestly successful turn as a nerd (Yeah, right!) in the recent Bad Teacher, Timberlake is proving time and again that just about everything the guy touches turns to gold. That has everything in the world to do with the simple fact that Timberlake is almost irritatingly talented, attractive and, even more irritatingly, seemingly a nice guy. Women love him and guys want to be him. While I'm not quite sold that Timberlake will be standing in line for an Oscar anytime soon, Timberlake is, quite simply, a great entertainer in the sort of way that blends classic Hollywood with Apatow lite.

Similarly, Kunis finally gets back to doing what she does well here. It's hard not to admire Kunis's attempts at broadening her acting horizons but, let's be honest, some of her recent dramatic performances have been laughable at best. While she received considerable acclaim for her turn in Black Swan, it's nearly impossible to deny that she was the film's weakest link (and kept this critic from giving the film my elusive 4-star rating). Friends With Benefits serves up the Mila Kunis that America fell in love with during That 70's Show, though with considerably more raunch. Kunis's Jamie is beautiful, funny, sexy, sweet, romantic and beautiful.

Oops. I said beautiful twice. Sorry.

I meant it.

Woody Harrelson is a hoot as a gay GQ sports editor, while Andy Samberg and Emma Stone rock it in the film's opening scenes with near simultaneous break-ups with our dazzling duo. Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins and Jenna Elfman, man I love seeing her again, show up in bit parts as relatives.

Directed by Will Gluck, who also served up the unexpected hit Easy A starring Emma Stone, seems to have an innate gift for wringing the truly comic heartbeat out of everyday moments while also turning out films that are far more intelligent than you might think upon first view. If you watched Easy A, then you likely understand what I mean. In Easy A, Gluck masterfully dissected high school culture, intertwined it with touches of a certain Nathaniel Hawthorne novel and threw in rather remarkable insights about family, culture, stereotypes and much more. He does much the same here, weaving into the fabric of Friends With Benefits your classic "East Coast vs. West Coast" battle while poking fun at pop culture, the media, relationships and much more. Just as happened with Easy A, you'll find yourself contemplating Friends With Benefits long after you leave the theatre and still chuckling along the way.

While Justin Timberlake could probably return to music anytime he wanted, he's verbalized a fondness for acting and may very well be on the verge of becoming one of this generation's most enduring entertainers. As has been true since his early days on the Mickey Mouse Club, Timberlake chooses his projects well and, along the way, stretches himself. While Friends With Benefits may not be a flawless film, it is one of the freshest and funniest romantic comedies of the summer.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic