Friends with Benefits (2011) ★ ★ ★
This movie tries so hard to remove itself from Hollywood clichés but inevitably ends up becoming one itself. The first half of the movie is promising, with its rejection of romantic comedy stereotypes and almost post-modern commentary on other similar movies. However, it is genuinely funny and light, even as predictable as it seems.
Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Kunis) create the illusion that they can have a no-strings relationship with the sharing of jokes, friendly criticism and a lack of judgement. And in the beginning, we believe them, as one by one they pick out the benefits that not being in a serious romantic relationship offer them in terms of comfort and flexibility.
The New York/LA rivalry is played on a bit too much- you can tell Mila Kunis is not actually from New York as she makes a huge deal of her caffeine addiction (always with a takeaway container in hand), crossing the road mid-traffic and her ability to run surprisingly fast in high heels. Timberlake's character of course is a health-conscious, trendy man of the west coast. However, his LA home, right on the sandy beach is quite enviable.
The film lightly touches on family issues, a key part of many "emotionally damaged" Hollywood heros, however it doesn't particularly match the comic aspect of the rest of the movie. Jamie deals with her careless and impulsive hippy mother while Dylan struggles with his father's case of Alzheimer's. The more serious moments of the film are brushed off, as the mother wakes up in fishnet stockings and the father mumbles about women of his past. Timberlake, however, earnestly tries to act like he is seriously considering turning his life around for this new girl in his life, Jamie, thanks to his father's great words of wisdom.
It doesn't boast much of the stunning New York scenery that other films exploit or have a memorable soundtrack, but the script and delivery is entertaining and pleasant. It's not a must-see for 2011 but a fun night out and a breath of fresh air from classic unimaginative romcoms.