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Movie of the Day: Friends With Benefits (2011)

16 May

FriendsWithBenefits

Have ever two more gorgeous or engaging people existed in a romantic comedy than Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis?  They’re not just physically beautiful but they both have sparkling personalities that, when brought together, causes the kind of electricity that great screen romance is made of.  We want to see them succeed, we want to see them fall in love, we want to see them happy together, but they are stuck in a movie that burdens their relationship with a plot gimmick that drives you nuts.

Let me back up and get a running start at this.  She is Jamie, a New York-based headhunter.  He is Dylan, an L.A.-based art director working for an extremely profitable website.  She persuades him to come to The Big Apple in order to interview for a job with GQ magazine per the parameters of her job.  Both Jamie and Dylan are a little broken.  They’ve both been dumped by their respective lovers apparently on the same time at the same time for basically the same stupid reason.

When they meet, they are both thunder-struck.  They have one dinner date and then another and then another.  The inevitable sparks are there, but each claims that having a romance is not what they are looking for.  So, they decide that they are going to follow the movie’s title and just keep things physical.  And get physical they do!  Their sexual chemistry is playful, curious and electric – they really seem to be having a great time together under the sheets, and what’s wonderful about it is that their scenes in the bedroom are allowed to play out without being burdened by stupid one-liners or clumsy embarrassments.  Yes, there is a moment during coitus when he has to excuse himself to the toilet and therein struggles with his erectile bearing, but it’s handled with a measure of delicacy.

Their chemistry in the bedroom is infectious and one of the nice touches about the movie is that the scenes don’t happen in short bursts.  They are allowed to go on, giving Jamie and Dylan time to explore each other.  And then we wait for that bond to blossom into love.  And we wait, and wait, and wait, and wait.  And this is where the movie loses me.

It is clear even to a house plant that these two people belong in each other’s arms.  We know it, they know it, their parents know it, their friends know it, and so why are they reluctant?  Yes, they’ve been hurt before but it is so obvious that they make each other happy that it’s frustrating to sit in the audience and watch these two spend the entire movie resisting the inevitable because the screenplay requires it.

Wouldn’t it have been more fun to watch the development of their love affair as it grew, and evolved and changed?  Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to watch and explore the struggles of two professional people in the 21st century?  I know I sound like I’m rewriting the movie here, but watching these two resist each other is aggravating because we already know they’re going to find themselves in each other’s arms in the final reel.  There’s a great romance here, someone needed to take the chains off and let it fly.

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