Friends With Benefits

Often contemporary films try desperately to capture a specific element from a different film era. For example, an inspired casting for a key role (think Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca), or, timeless musical numbers (Wizard of Oz) or even the entire feeling of a film and how it reflected a time and place (Saturday Night Fever.) One element that seems just out of reach of modern filmmakers is quality chemistry between leads. Sure, you can always throw the current hottest male and female leads up on screen (think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith) but its not just looks, it’s writing and acting that create that certain chemistry, that is so rare and hard to recreate.

Director Will Gluck (Easy A) does a pretty good job of capturing the Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn chemistry in the new film Friends With Benefits. This film gets unfairly lumped with the lackluster No Strings Attached, starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, which came out earlier this year. Friends With Benefits delivers on several fronts with a witty, sharp and funny script, inspired casting and great chemistry between leads Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. Essentially telling the story of two friends who decide to have sex without any emotional attachment, the story rumbles along towards an expected conclusion, but along the way the audience is treated to some believable energy between the leads. Certainly, witty repartee is lost on most multiplex patrons, but when coupled with a strong R-rated script and nearly naked bodies, the film will find a good audience.

While not on par with the recent “raunch-fest” comedies (Hangover, Bridesmaids, etc.). Friends is an honest, funny and entertaining film that is a pleasant diversion from some of the “louder” films of the summer. A true date-night rom-com, this movie gives both sexes eye candy, and a chance to laugh at some pretty unique situations and awkward moments. Kunis is shrewdly expanding on her Black Swan credibility with more comedic turns, and Timberlake proves he can hold his own without Saturday Night Live’s Andy Samberg (who is a hilariously cast boyfriend to Kunis in the films early minutes). Other excellent casting includes Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson and Jenna Elfman in supporting roles.

Friends With Benefits is playing at Cinemark Cinemas at El Con Mall, 3601 E. Broadway Boulevard. For showtimes visits Cinemark.com.

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About Herb Stratford

Arts and culture writer and film reviewer. Historic theatre restoration consultant. Artist and arts educator.
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