Friends With Benefits: Art of Self-Deprecation at Its Best

This weekend, I finally decided it was OK to see Friends With Benefits. I was very against seeing this movie, as much as I was against seeing (and still am against seeing) No Strings Attached, because it looks like it just took the other main actress from Black Swan, Natalie Portman, and put her in the same title role: a female character stupidly thinking that sharing only a sexual relationship with a partner can still let you function devoid of emotional attachment to that partner.

Here’s the deal with Friends With Benefits: it joyfully and wittingly makes fun of itself. The biggest enjoyment I received from watching the movie was when Jamie (Mila Kunis) and Dylan (Justin Timberlake) were watching a romantic comedy starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones. The overdramatic dialogue, the huge gestures, the cliche storyline, the chase scene, the upbeat credits song (by none other than Train)–all are elements that make up the majority of rom coms today. And Dylan pointedly mentions this while he annoyingly sits through the cheesiness as Jamie sheds a few tears and declares that she wishes her life (particularly the love part of it) to be like a movie.

When a movie sees itself for what it is–in this case, a romantic comedy–and doesn’t try to pretend to be something else, but assuredly and confidently works itself out, you find yourself less annoyed at the cliche elements that make up the genre and more accepting of the particular movie’s efforts. Friends With Benefits gladly takes it place and doesn’t apologize for being what it is. That’s what more romantic comedies need to do.

Although I will probably not make time for a second viewing (primarily due to objectionable elements), I did find the movie to be cute and fun, and I mostly appreciated the different approach that Will Gluck took in making this movie not your typical rom com. There’s some interesting and fun supporting characters played by Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson, and two hilarious cameos by Shaun White, that add humor, while a performance by Richard Jenkins, who plays Dylan’s dad, gave a nice dramatic element to the film.

Both Dylan and Jamie get wrapped up in their own personal confusion of the relationship and take longer than usual to resolve those feelings and come to the conclusion that they are a perfect fit. It’s nice to see some new faces star in a more original rom com, and kudos to Gluck for making it interesting. If I ever see No Strings Attached (fat chance, though), I might make a comparison. But until I find my life boring enough to make time for a viewing of that, I’m sticking with Friends With Benefits.