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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 23, 2011

Friend with Benefits Movie Review

RECENT ROMANTIC films from Hollywood show the kind of lax culture regarding casual sex that they now have there. The leads often go to bed only for sex, with no love involved, just like in “No Strings Attached” with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher and “Love and Other Drugs” with Anne Hathaway and Jack Gyllenhaal who both give great performances. Here now comes “Friends With Benefits” (coming from “Fubu” or Fuckbuddies) with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis of “Black Swan”. Problem is, all the couples eventually fall in love with each other. And we notice that in all three films, it’s the guys who expose a lot more skin than their female partners.

In “FB”, Justin is Dylan, a laidback L.A.-based blog editor who is enticed by an aggressive recruiter-headhunter, Mila as Jamie, to fly to NY to work with GQ Magazine. Jamie sells him the city itself, with people dancing in the street in Times Square. She even takes him to her favorite secret place on top of a skyscraper. He is charmed and agrees to relocate. Jamie helps him look for his own place and they become good friends.

At the start of the film, they’re both shown being dumped by their respective BF-GF. Justin’s GF is Emma Stone, the star of “Easy A”, which was the directorial debut of FB’s director, Will Gluck. They miss sex and eventually agree to go to bed with each other, but without any romantic involvement whatsoever. As maybe expected, they both fall for each but they deny their feelings, both afraid of making a commitment, like in ‘When Harry Met Sally’.

Although the film features some nudity, it’s actually the raunchy language here that makes it R-rated (which is why it’s not shown in SM Cinemas but only in Ayala and Robinson.) The film works mainly because even if the characters are both damaged, they’re still sympathetic and endearing, add to that the fact that Justin and Mila are both appealing performers with good comic timing and also have good on-screen chemistry together. They get good support from Richard Jenkins as Justin’s dad who has Alzheimer’s, Patricia Clarkson as Mila’s liberated mom, Woody Harrelson as GO’s straight acting but openly gay sports editor and Jenny Elfman as Justin’s supportive sister.

The script also offers some good and funny lines. After being dumped by his BF, Mila passes by a poster of “The Ugly Truth” starring Katherine Heigl and calls her a liar. She blurts out: “We’ve got to stop buying into the Hollywood cliché of true love!” Justin hits on a woman in Central Park who’s reading “The Notebook”. Well paced and successfully delivering some good laughs, this is the best rom-com we’ve seen lately.