Monday, 19 December 2011

Friends With Benefits, dir. Will Gluck, wr. Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, Will Gluck, st. Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins

Every time you get fearful Friends With Benefits will take flight and soar above its tried and tested formula, fear not, for like its companion piece, Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached from earlier in the same year, Gluck adheres to convention with satisfactory results. In fact watching Kunis do her adorkable thing is way more fun than Strings's Natalie Portman who, the brilliant SNL sketch Natalie Raps aside, always looks in some discomfort  when uttering expletives (also see, or rather don't, Your Highness). It's a bit of a shame that for a comedy, however lightly intended, that riffs on the nature of romantic cliché and relationship stereotypes in such a knowing way, the film ends up wholeheartedly conforming to them. After the buzz and kineticism of watching the two leads for 90 minutes it almost feels like something of a cop-out to see them so easily walk off into the sunset. But there're some nice cameos from Andy Samberg and Emma Stone as the pair's exes, Harrelson having a ball as the sage gay sports editor, and the ever-reliable Richard Jenkins as Timberlake's Alzheimer-afflicted father, who Six Feet Under fans will know can go from gravitas to airily comedic in a heartbeat. Friends With Benefits doesn't quite get the easy A it was aiming for, but for what it is, it does indeed make the grade.