2011_friends-with-benefits.jpgIt’s not often you have a romantic comedy full of contradictions as plot points. Those are usually reserved for the lead character.  But, every now and then, a filmmaker pokes fun at the genre.

There are certain tropes one can expect in a romantic comedy (rom-com).  There’s the zany heroine and; the bad-boy-needing-to-be-tamed hero; the even zanier sidekicks.  And then there is the moment of truth when it becomes apparent that there’s love in the air, followed by the requisite kiss in a somewhat inappropriate place at the end.

In the latest rom-com to hit theaters, Friends With Benefits, our hero and heroine, Dylan (played by Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis), respectively, are two people who are heavily attracted to each other.  The big “oh no!” of this story is that these two attractive people are “damaged” and therefore can’t sustain a healthy relationship.  So, they place their hands on an iPhone app Holy Bible and pledge to be just friends who have casual sex.

Right.  Because sex doesn’t screw up friendships.  But, I digress.  Cue hijinks, the gay sports editor, the hippie mom, the father with the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s who likes to walk around in his underwear, and the dreamboat/jerky doctor – all working toward the contradiction that is Friends With Benefits.

Director Will Gluck and screenwriters Keith Merryman, David Newman, and Gluck (with story by Harley Peyton, Merryman, and Newman) have set out to make the anti-romantic comedy rom-com.  What these men (the director and writers, not the storytellers) have done is create a strong-willed female character who is a sappy sack waiting for prince charming to sweep her off her feetYes, there is a prince charming-like male in the picture.  But, he doesn’t save her.  They save themselves – together.  What Merryman and company should realize is that not all women are looking for a Prince Charming to sweep them off of their feet.  Not all women want to be rescued. 

I know many firefighters from my travels.  I adore them.  They are fun people to be around.  However, I have never been the type of woman who wanted to be rescued by a fireman.  Nor will I ever be that woman.  I would rather see a strong man with a firefighter’s body who is kind to people and treats me like his partner.  And, if I feel that way, then there must be thousands of other women who feel the same way.

Now, based on its own merit, if I pretend that this film isn’t trying too hard not to be a typical romantic comedy, I would say that Friends With Benefits is a good film.  There are two attractive lead actors who have great chemistry, funny situations and a great wardrobe for its heroine. 

But, the greatness of Friends With Benefits is smothered by the whole “let’s try not to be like a romantic comedy” theme.  I have a revelation for the screenwriters of this film: Friends With Benefits is a romantic comedy.  If you’d like to see what a good Friends With Benefits-like romantic comedy looks like, then turn to No Strings Attached which didn’t feature a pretentious notion that you can make a romantic comedy try to be something it’s not. 

Let me put it in Friends With Benefits terms.  If you’re going to date your audience, then you need to be real with us.  You just want us women to sit in the theater, fantasize about Justin Timberlake’s rock hard abs, and swoon when Dylan and Jamie kiss/make love for the first time.  Like most relationships, it’s the dishonesty of the filmmakers that has this female audience member ready for a break up.

Kimberly Grant may be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com


Justin Timberlake as ‘Dylan’.