Sunday, April 15, 2012

Friends with Benefits (2011)

If you've seen the trailer for this movie, you may assume that you already know the plot, from beginning to end credit. You would be correct. In fact, the storyline not only follows that of similar movies, but is virtually identical to the "this, that and the other" plot in Seinfeld, when Jerry and Elaine decide to resume their sexual relationship for recreation, with rules to make sure that no emotional ties develop.

In this movie, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis' Dylan and Jamie do the very same thing, but, surprisingly the funny script makes the result much more than a predictable cliche.

We're treated to extended scenes of the two friends negotiating and directing their sexual escapades to hilarious effect. With no need to be loving and kind they can critique technique and bark orders at each other with abandon. In a way, as lovers unburdened by fake sincerity and tender artifice, they seem like more honest partners than most couples are to one another and one can easily imagine that makes their sex all the more enjoyable -- and intimate, in a non-intimate way -- because there are no white lies or barriers between them.

As pals, they enjoy sports, social gatherings and gossipy phone calls together. Sex is only part of what we see develop into a full-fleshed relationship. We like them, they like the other. When the inevitable happens and they become romantically involved, in the end it doesn't end up too mushy -- but we wouldn't mind that much if it did. They deserve it.

There are some sub-plots where we see that Dylan and Jamie's emotional distance is caused by their dysfunctional family backgrounds. Jamie never knew her father and her wacky mom, Patricia Clarkson, doesn't seem to have known him very well either -- if she even remembers which suitor he was. Dylan's father suffers from Alzheimer's, further saddling a family that has never healed from the mother's abandonment years earlier. It's nice to try to give the lead characters roots, but I'm not sure that their personalities needed to be explained or rationalized. So, neither has had an enduring romantic relationship. They're still in their twenties. I don't think that makes them emotionally damaged, as the movie posits. Perhaps, it makes them wise.

The movie is smart, funny and a fun romp, whether Jamie and Dylan are in or out of the sheets.