AWFJ Women On Film – “Friends With Benefits” – Review by Susan Granger

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When Dylan (Justin Timberlake from “The Social Network”) is recruited by corporate headhunter Jamie (Mila Kunis from “Black Swan”), he moves from his Los Angeles media job to become art director of GQ magazine in Manhattan. A sassy relationship quickly develops. They have a lot in common, particularly since they’ve both been previously burned by love. He’s “emotionally unavailable,” while she’s “emotionally damaged.”

So they make a pact that promises casual sex with no commitment – and their vow is sealed on a cell phone Bible app, rather than a Bible.

Predictably, as they snuggle on her sofa, Jamie relishes a mockingly romantic movie-within-a-movie, “I Love You, I Love New York,” starring Rashida Jones and Jason Segel. Secretly, Jamie wants more. And Dylan isn’t exactly adverse to Jamie’s charms. Meanwhile, they bicker and banter, coping with Jamie’s raunchy, hippie-ditsy mom (Patricia Clarkson) and Dylan’s aging, Alzheimer’s-addled dad (Richard Jenkins).

It’s unevenly written by Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, and if the set-up sounds familiar, you may have seen “No Strings Attached” with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman or, perhaps, “Love & Other Drugs” with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway – both rom-coms used the same premise. Yet credit co-writer/director Will Gluck (“Easy A”) for obviously trying to evoke the kind of snappy, screwball, romantic comedy that was once embodied by droll pros like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Updated with contemporary pop culture riffs on iPads, Captain Sully and John Mayer, dubbed “the Sheryl Crow of our generation,” there are also mocking jabs at Katherine Heigl and Nora Ephron.

Olympic snowboarder Shaun White does a crazy cameo, while Woody Harrelson plays a coolly gay co-worker commuting into the city from New Jersey on his 1937 Chris Craft. While it’s obvious that Mila Kunis uses a body double in the sex scenes, it’s too bad she didn’t also use a vocal coach too; her shrillness can be a definite turn-off.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Friends With Benefits” is a sweet ‘n’ salty 7 – it’s a happy hookup.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.