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When Justin met Mila

July 25, 2011

I read  the lede of a review today about Friends with Benefits, the new romantic comedy – emphasis on the comedy – starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis – that said the film did not break new ground from recent film “No Strings Attached.”

Duh.

The genre has not breaken new ground on male-female friendships since “When Harry Met Sally.” But, that doesn’t make the film any less watchable.

Sure, we know where the film is going to end as soon as we get the traditional “meet-cute” between our two main characters, Dylan (Timberlake) and Jamie (Kunis), but its the pop culture jokes and the plethora of side characters with strong acting chops that make this a fun ride.

Woody Harrelson makes the top of that list, playing a gay sports editor and voice of reason for Dylan. We also meet Dylan’s family, sister Annie (Jenna Elfman), nephew Sam (Nolan Gould of Modern Family) and father Mr. Harper (Richard Jenkins). Jenkins brings a certain gravitas to the film that without would make the film less grounded.

But Jamie also has interesting side characters including her trying to be sexy but way too flighty mom (played by Patricia Clarkson – think through that one with Timberlake and you will get the joke).

The conventions remain intact even as the two main characters navigate the “joke” of romantic comedy movies and real life relationships while struggling with their emotional flaws. Jamie’s appears to be that she believes in love which in this cynical comedy makes her ‘crazy.’. Dylan’s is your typical guy who doesn’t want to get too close issue which we learn in the opening scenes.

“Friends with Benefits” is the perfect example to remind us that sometimes it is not the destination but the journey that matters. How the films ends is not surprising, but it is all the fun before we get there that makes this one worth a viewing.

But ladies, take note, if planning to sign up for a friends with benefit plan, don’t expect Prince Charming to be at the end of the bed. In the real world, it is just a friend that you are likely throwing away.

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