The sex comedy must be a really hard genre to pull off. While Judd Apatow has recently really nailed it, very few have been able to score any real homeruns. Not even the ’80s master himself, Ivan Reitman, could muster up a film that lived up to the expectations of his yesteryears. While I was in a huge minority that liked No Strings Attached, leave it to Will Gluck, the director of Easy A, one of my personal favorites from last year to bring us pretty much the exact same movie, but with far greater results, with Friends with Benefits.
We begin with two couples. Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Kayla (Emma Stone) are on their way to a John Mayer concert while Jamie (Mila Kunis) Quincy (Andy Samberg) are meeting up to see a screening of Pretty Woman. Before you can say happily-ever-after their nights decide to “suck a bag of dicks” and Kayla and Quincy pull the ol’ switcheroo and break up with our protagonists. Now Jamie is picking Dylan up at JFK for a job interview. She’s an “executive recruiter” and has been headhunting Dylan for the past six months for a job in Manhattan. Dylan is on the cusp of selling out from an online blog to art editor for GQ. After taking Dylan to her favorite spots to sell him on the NYC life and using a flashmob closer, Dylan accepts the job and uproots himself to the big city. Now he’s a fish out of water in the city where “everyone seems so violent.”
Having no friends in a big city must be tough. It’s not like your co-workers are going to want to hang out with their boss and being from Los Angeles can get you easily shunned in the Big Apple. When the only person who seems to want to hang out with you also happens to be gay (Woody Harrelson) and is continually questioning whether you are, you may seek the comfort in the solace of the only girl you know. After a pseudo montage of hang outs, Dylan and Jamie come to the realization that what happens after the big kiss in romantic comedies happens to be porn. Which should also be emotionless and strictly physical… Uh huh. After swearing on an iPad Bible app, the two vow to remain friends after getting down and dirty. While you may know where everything leads after this, it’s up to the couple and the director to make sure we stay invested.
Having a terrific script and an amazing supporting cast helps as well; not to mention some splendid cameos along the way. Director Gluck may not have brought us an even better film than Easy A, but where that film came out of nowhere, this film is hot on the heels of a prior film with the exact same plot. It’s almost how DreamWorks and Pixar used to function. Which is ironic seeming how No Strings Attached happens to be a DreamWorks film whereas this is from “the S from Hell,” (aka Screen Gems).It probably doesn’t hurt to have Jerry Zucker (Airplane!, The Naked Gun) on board as a producer either.
Along with his co-writers (Keith Merryman and David A. Newman), Gluck keeps things trucking along and has a much more spirited lead couple in Kunis and Timberlake compared to Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. While Kutcher may be likeable, it still amazes me how he keeps getting cast in lead roles. Timberlake is far more charismatic and seems to have really honed his comedic skills with his stints on Saturday Night Live in their Digital Shorts alongside Samberg and his “Lonely Island” crew. Here we actually want the couple to wind up together in spite of the usual romantic-comedy trappings which goes a long way to the film earning its ending. So take my advice and hit it, don’t quit it, this weekend.
Photos courtesy Screen Gems