While trying to avoid the clichés of Hollywood romantic comedies, Dylan and Jamie soon discover however that adding the act of sex to their friendship does lead to complications.
If you found this year's earlier sex-buddy romantic comedy No Strings Attached' a pleasant surprise, expect to be won over by 'Friends with Benefits' too. While both movies revolve around the same premise – two friends decide to give casual sex a shot – 'Friends with Benefits' scores extra points for being as funny as this summer's other R-rated comedies.
Jamie (Mila Kunis) is a privately-contracted headhunter for major New York City publications. Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is a highly sought-after online graphic designer. Both are recently-dumped damaged goods. So, when Jamie recruits Dylan for a prestigious position at GQ, the two naturally hit it off and become besties.
One drunken night, they make a pact to become sex buddies. Just as lots of friends get together to play tennis a few times a week, they plan to get together for sex - and nothing more. Bring on the numerous montages of the two sexing it up. While 'No Strings Attached' went for cutesy and playful sex, 'Friends with Benefits' goes for raunchy, beneath-the-sheets sex, and draws a lot of humor from its uncomfortably awkward (no-nudity) soft-core scenes. (Sorry, pervs. The two quick shots of Jamie's nudity are really a body double, not Mila Kunis.)
As you would expect, emotions start getting involved between the two, which causes drama. Yet the way 'Friends with Benefits' puts love between the two is unexpected and refreshing, but I'm not going to spoil that for you.
Not only is 'Friends with Benefits' exceptionally funny, it quickly charms you with its genuine heart. It's one of those rare movies that, although 109 minutes long, never makes you want to check your watch. It's so entertaining that you'll forget you're watching a movie and will be willing to go with it wherever it takes you.
Timberlake flexes his comedic muscles, but he still lacks the ability to pull off the serious stuff. Kunis, as always, is charming and fun, but the supporting actor who comes in and commands his role is (once again) Richard Jenkins. In a movie that plays a little over average, he steps in and pitches a perfect game.
Amidst this sex-filled comedy, writer/director Will Gluck also writes 'Friends with Benefits' as a love song to New York City. It romanticizes the dirty and crowded crime-filled streets. I've never been to NYC, but if it's anything like the way he frames it on the screen, I won't be disappointed when I finally go.
It's not a game-changer, but 'Friends with Benefits' is fun, funny, fresh, charming, sexy and totally entertaining, a one-up from most romantic comedies.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Friends with Benefits' arrives on a Region-free BD-50 in a semi-eco-friendly keepcase. For a limited time, it includes an Ultraviolet version of the film too. Printed on the back of the cover art insert is an image of Kunis and Timberlake dining, which can be seen through the case. Upon inserting the disc into a Blu-ray player, a Sony vanity reel and four trailers play - all of which are skippable and can be viewed individually from the main menu.
Note: The code that unlocks the Ultraviolet copy is printed on the back of a sticker on the packaging, so be sure not to toss it out.
'Friends with Benefits' has received a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Despite Sony's usually-good transfers, 'Friends with Benefits' isn't up to par.
For a new title, one would expect the video quality to be clean and crisp, but it's not. The inconsistent detail jumps back and forth from decent to soft, only a few shots reaching the high-def standard we've become used to. Night shots, of which there are many, are filled with seemingly flickering digital noise that catches your attention when it shouldn't. Small specks of dirt and grime occasionally break the eye's focus too.
Black levels are also inconsistent on a shot-by-shot level. In one shot they appear rich and deep, in the next they're gray and noisy. Details are gobbled up within the blacks. Shadows eat away all texture. Edge enhancement, artifacts and DNR are absent, but aliasing pokes its head in a few times during wide cityscapes.
The only area in which 'Friends with Benefits' exceeds is within its color scheme. When Jamie and Dylan first meet, it's all about business, so the palette features lifeless blacks, whites and grays, but as their relationship flourishes and the city becomes their backdrop, it's filled with the most vibrant and defined colors. From blue skies and orange sunsets to green Central Park and glowing neon street signs, the coloring is perfect.
All in all, this is a very disappointing presentation of material that should have been HD eye candy.
'Friends with Benefits' features both English and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, as well as Spanish and English Descriptive Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. Just as problematic as the video quality, so too is the English Master Audio track.
When the movie first begins, it's immediately noticeable how well mixed the audio is. It's evenly and naturally spread through all channels. The dialog level is never lost behind music and sound effects (except when it's supposed to be during the flash mob scenes). The ambiance from a studio office is just as impressive as that of the open air bustling city streets. But then I noticed the one major problem:
Just as some people's teeth cause a whistling sound when they pronounce the letter 'S' (like G.O.B. on 'Arrested Development'), for 90 percent of 'Friends with Benefits,' every time there's an 'S' sound in the dialog it's accompanied by a faint crackle. Once you've noticed it, you will not be able to hear anything but that. It even bleeds into the music at times. This annoying distortion is absolutely maddening.
For a movie that's much, much better than the previews made it seem, the 'Friends with Benefits' Blu-ray isn't nearly as good as it should be. While the extra features are brief, but enjoyable, the overall quality of the film's AV presentation is far below what we demand these days. The bad transfer is an irritating nuisance.The audio flaw will drive you to distraction. This is best kept as a rental.