After nasty break-ups with their exes, Justin Timberlake’s art director Dylan and Mila Kunis’s New York corporate headhunter Jamie decide to hook up for uncomplicated no-strings sex in Friends with Benefits. After all, true love is just a Hollywood cliché. Or so they convince each other until the inevitable happens and messy feelings start getting in the way – just as they did for Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman in the similarly themed No Strings Attached, released just six months ago.
Friends with Benefits is a good deal smarter and funnier than No Strings Attached, and its leads have better chemistry. Timberlake and Kunis spark well together, in and out of bed, and it’s fun watching their characters mock the conventions of Hollywood rom-coms as they watch a fake film within the film, a hilariously cheesy example of the genre starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones.
Of course, Dylan and Jamie – and Friends with Benefits itself – finally succumb to those same clichés, but the sappy ending doesn’t entirely spoil what’s gone before. Director Will Gluck (maker of high-school comedy Easy A) gets the balance right between raunchiness and sweetness, as do the cast, who also include Woody Harrelson, going over the top as a foul-mouthed gay sports editor, Richard Jenkins as Dylan’s Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, and the ever-dependable Patricia Clarkson as Jamie’s flaky mother.
On general release from 9th September.