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Unmissable 5 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

Emma Stone
Woody Harrelson
Justin Timberlake
Mila Kunis
Patricia Clarkson
Andy Samberg
Richard Jenkins.
Will Gluck.
Keith Merryman.
Running Time
109 minutes

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Friends With Benefits
Fuck-buddy movie

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New York head hunter Jamie (Kunis) successfully lures art director Dylan (Timberlake) to New York for a magazine job. After becoming friends, they decide to try no-strings sex, believing they can keep emotions out of it. Naturally, they can’t…

Friends With Benefits
"Shut up, Katherine Heigl, you stupid liar,” spits Mila Kunis at the start of this romantic comedy as she storms away from a cinema, glowering at the posters. It’s a promising beginning in a post-Bridesmaids world demanding a little more from its chick flicks.

Kunis’ character, Jamie, is sick of romantic comedies telling her that everything will work out just fine. Her solution? To use pal Dylan (Justin Timberlake) purely for sex. No emotion, no flattery, pure honesty. There’s an amusing scene where they size each other up with a quick-fire round of questioning, exchanging brutally honest comments about each other’s physiques.

It’s an eerily similar premise to No Strings Attached, with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, which originally had this very title. Clearly the fuck-buddies idea is current. Friends With Benefits takes a slightly raunchier approach, with a fairly frank look at the mechanics of sex. So yes, there are bedroom scenes with Kunis and Timberlake barking instructions at each other. It’s not desperately sexy, but it is funny, and opens up questions about the links between sex and attraction (can you simply get someone to push your buttons if you only find them passable and likable?).

But that’s not the question this is particularly concerned with. “Can men and women have sex and NOT fall into a relationship?” this seems to ask. The answer is disappointingly mundane. This goes to great lengths to set itself up as an anti rom-com, a celebration of singledom — and then falls into exactly the same trap as the films it’s been mocking. Yes, it’s aware of its double standards with a nod and a wink, but to what end?

The good news is that it’s reasonably funny and charming throughout — slightly more so than No Strings. Kunis and Timberlake share comic ability and chemistry, although he arguably has less mass appeal as a leading man. Woody Harrelson gleans the odd obvious laugh from his role as Dylan’s gay colleague, but it’s Patricia Clarkson who steals the show as Jamie’s irresponsible, party-loving mother, who makes a classic entrance via coitus interruptus.

By the time the couple (or non-couple) visit Dylan’s family, the tension about their union has drained away. Its conclusion feels inevitable and a subplot about Dylan’s father is unnecessary, despite Richard Jenkins’ talents.

This won’t bother women in search of an easy romantic comedy, but it’s not going to change the world of chick flicks either. Although after Kunis’ performance, Katherine Heigl might have something to worry about after all.

This coasts along just fine thanks to charm and comical interludes, but it fails to deliver the sassy story it promises. Fine for a romantic comedy, but an inferior follow up to director Gluck’s edgier Easy A.

Reviewed by Anna Smith

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Friends With Benefits
Empire Star Rating

found it irritating

The first half hour was nails on a chalk board for me, I grew tired of the quick-fire sarky patter between the leads and for the first hour things flew by at warp speed then glacially slow for the final act. Yawn. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 22:59, 11 May 2014 | Report This Post

Friends With Benefits

Avoiding the rom-com predictabilities does work here, but only so far as Friends With Benefits starts to tread in it's slow-drama-like narrative. But those first 30 minutes of the film are pure rom-com gold, thanks to Gluck's easy-going and realistic script. Plus, Kunis and Timberlake do make a good couple. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 03:38, 22 September 2012 | Report This Post


Starts off interestingly enough, but falls right into the by the numbers romantic comedy formula in the latter stages. Despite that, enjoyable and the chemistry between Kunis and Timberlake is undeniable. It never hurts to have Woody pop in for a few wisecracks either. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Turd Ferguson at 16:58, 14 December 2011 | Report This Post

Friends with Benefits: Review

Friends with Benefits is a very good film. The story is great, great cast and way better then No Strings Attached. The only complaint I have is it dosen't bring anything new to the romantic genre. I would recommend to go see this film. Edit ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Edward9630 at 01:07, 25 September 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Friends with Benefits

It´s better than No Strings Attached,the similar vein Ashton Kutcher movie. It´s smarter and better written,but gives way to the very cliches it pokes fun at. Decent 3 star fluff,Kunis is divine! ... More

Posted by thetruth at 19:25, 12 September 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Friends with Benefits

Very average. Loved Mila Kunis though. I'd agree it is a disappointment after Easy A, my favourite post-Hughes high school movie since 10 Things I Hate About You. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tech_Noir at 19:21, 10 September 2011 | Report This Post

Friends with Benefits

Conceptually, there is nothing in this film that separates it from any other romcom - so it's down to the characters and dialogue. The chemistry between Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake is undeniable, but it's the side-plot of Dylan and his father that is the most entertaining to watch, and the most heartwrenching of all. Short, snappy lines ensure that attention is kept throughout. However, it could have done without the ending of 'we've spent the entire movie taking the mick out of cliches... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hattyhat at 16:37, 09 September 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Friends With Benefits

The Emma Stone cameo is brilliant.  The film is surprisingly good, if cliche.  ... More

Posted by SoonForgotten2 at 22:35, 08 September 2011 | Report This Post

Friends With Benefits

A bit overly long and drags towards the end, funny but a little too hyper and perhaps would've benefited by taking itself more seriously. Emma Stone is in it but only for about four minutes then she is gone :( ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 16:08, 05 September 2011 | Report This Post

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