Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Friends With Benefits (Will Gluck, 2011) -- C+
The smarmy self-righteousness of Will Gluck's Easy A has worn off a considerable bit in Friends with Benefits, a hyper-self-aware Rom Com entry that feigns pedigree more than it actually demonstrates sophistication; however, anytime a film features scenes and/or posters from It Happened One Night, On the Waterfront, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, screen-romance afficionados must take note. The postmodern relationship crisis strikes again: can we fuck and just be friends? Resoundingly the answer is NO, and though these traditionalist, heteronormative underpinnings are trite, trite, trite, there's something to be said for Gluck's genuine interest in his two protags, each played charmingly by respective leads Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis (who's especially strong). Moreover, characters act and think with pop culture prowess, chiding the Hollywood romance lessons from the Katherine Heigel canon, predicting beats in standard film fare down to the painfully literal music, and even using the word "postmodern" to describe themselves! Were Gluck less overt in his pop-cock waving (dude's just showing off), maybe he'd have recognized that merely citing cliches does not excuse him from indulging them - which is precisely what Friends With Benefits does when it isn't proudly announcing itself as not one of the pack. Undeniably, Gluck knows the genre - but there's a fine line between knowing and feeling; his lead-pipe direction, exhausting pacing, and zeitgeist infatuation don't amount to comedic ingenuity. Less perceptively quotidian than determinedly "fresh," the leads are buried by Gluck's self-love.