Director Will Gluck has been on a roll in the past couple years. Last year he directed Easy A, a film that looked like another run of the mill teen romance, but ended up being smart and funny thanks to its star Emma Stone. This year he had his sights set on the sex buddies sub-genre, a particular type of film that can be both funny and romantic, but something that usually falls under its own weight.
Earlier this year Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman starred in No Strings Attached, which was much more charming then you’d think after watching the trailer, but still very simplistic and blueprint. It did manage to keep itself light and harmless for most of the running time, but it never broke barriers for the genre.
Friends with Benefits on the other hand aimed its marketing at not falling into the genre clichés and being something more self-aware while still throwing a bone at those classic familiar romantic moments we all have learned to enjoy.
Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is done with relationships. His last girlfriend broke it off because he just wasn’t emotionally there. His mind was focused on his career and not on her. He’s decided enough is enough and from now on out he’ll just worry about sex and friendship.
Jamie (Mila Kunis) is emotionally damaged. She’s got kind of an oddball approach to life that keeps her moving fast and always in defense mode. She’s dreamed of a prince charming all of her life, but she’s slowly started to realize that isn’t going to happen, so she’s decided enough with boyfriends and complications.
The two meet up over a job opportunity in New York. Dylan flies from L.A. to hear what GQ Magazine has to offer. Jamie’s the recruiter that not only sells him on the job, but sells him on the city of New York. As the two get closer friends wise, they discuss the possibility of simply having sex without any commitment, just two friends pleasuring each other for the simple sake of it. They test the theory of men and women being unable of having a relationship solely based on sex and the outcome is familiar, funny, but still kind of smart because of its angle.
Friends with Benefits isn’t going to turn the genre on its heels. It’s a more honest and straight-forward approach to the usual sap, but deep down inside it still deals with the idea in the same way as most films before it have. It’s just the way it gets there that feels so refreshing. Both characters are so up front with each other about everything. They’re not looking for the perfect match; they just want someone to have a good time with. The majority of the film is full of scenes of them simply having a good time while poking at sappy romance films. Jason Segel and Rashida Jones actually star in a movie within the movie.
Will Gluck keeps his actors constantly churning out some truly funny stuff. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have excellent chemistry together. They sell the friendship perfectly and when things start getting more serious they have no problem keeping the jokes flowing, while turning the heat up between the two of them.
Like I mentioned before, this is a straight-forward movie. The sexual jokes aren’t watered down or cute, they’re raunchy and hilarious. The sex itself is shown in detail. You’ll see them doing all sorts of different awkwardly funny maneuvers. It’s not shy about its intentions at all. That being said, when the romance turns up Friends with Benefits still stays on that semi self-aware level. It goes in the only direction it really can and it feels reel enough to enjoy. The story is never forced on you; instead it just sort of eases its way along. You know at the beginning of the film how it’s going to end, but you’ll enjoy watching it all slowly unfold.
Friends with Benefits works so well because of its characters. Director Will Gluck is one of the best when it comes to putting together a cast. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis lead without problem and funny guys like Woody Harrelson help pepper the film up with supporting roles. Even Andy Samberg and Emma Stone make the best of their short little cameos. Gluck always makes his films feel light and fun. You can tell most of the cast probably had a blast filming it, which translates into the viewer having even more fun watching it.
Friends with Benefits is the best kind of romantic comedy. It has some really entertaining jokes for the guys, enough romance for the girls and a small amount of drama to please both crowds. You’ll laugh your ass off for most of the running time. It does get a little predictable towards the end, but it’s the kind of predictability that you welcome with open arms because the characters make you want it to happen.
Friends with Benefits comes to Blu-Ray with an impressive 1080p transfer. The film was shot digitally and that rarely holds it back. The film is sharp and detailed, but it doesn’t quite jump out at you. The color pallet is full of more toned down greens and blues, which is magnificently represented on this disc. Skin tones are natural and soft.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track provides a pleasant experience. It’s a little tame on the mixing side of things, with most of the action taking place up front, but that’s typical for romantic comedies. Dialogue is focused on the front channels with the back bringing in some activity. It’s much more quiet than originally expected considering the location of the film, but it feels fine for this particular film. It’s soft, but still detailed.
The Blu-Ray package comes with your average amount of features for a romantic comedy. Most of the features are easy time passers, but none of them will really shock or awe you. Check out the list below.
- Bonus Benefits: A Pop-Up Trivia Track
- Audio Commentary: Featuring director Will Gluck and actors Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.
- Deleted Scenes (HD)
- Outtakes (HD)
- On Set with FWB (HD)
- In a Flash: Choreographing a Mob (HD)
- Previews (HD)
- DVD Copy
- UltraViolet Copy
I was honestly very impressed with Friends with Benefits. Will Gluck has managed yet again to turn a movie that looked kind of plain into something full of life and character. It works so well because of how it perfectly balances comedy, romance and a little drama. The film is for the most part a raunchy comedy that isn’t too silly or dumb. The jokes hit the right spot and the romance never gets too sticky. It’s the surprise hit between the two sex buddy films of the year by a long shot. Don’t let the trailers and concept fool you!
The Blu-Ray package is a great treat for fans of the film. The video transfer brings the digitally shot film to life with great attention to detail and color. The audio is your average quality romantic comedy track that’ll please most and the special features are also the simple deleted scenes and commentary kind of stuff that you’ll probably skip over. If you do watch the extras then you’ll find enough to pass the time, but nothing extra cool or out of the ordinary. The package does come with a DVD copy and a digital copy, so if you like the film then you shouldn’t have any troubles taking it with you on the go.
I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed the film and I think most people will too. It’s not just a simple romantic comedy that provides a few chuckles and a sappy love story. It’s an incredibly funny comedy that hits all the right notes and still manages to provide a little romance that never goes overboard. On top of that it tosses in a little drama to help mend the characters even more. It works so well because of Will Gluck‘s fresh sense of direction and his strong ability to work with actors and actresses. It’s a must see film and the Blu-Ray disc replicates the theatrical experience comprehensively while providing some quick features for those looking for a little more.