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Video: Watch the 'Friends With Benefits' trailer

By
Hollywood Reporter
updated 7/18/2011 5:46:41 PM ET 2011-07-18T21:46:41
REVIEW

Ashton and Natalie may have beaten them to the “just sex” punch line with "No Strings Attached," but Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis do it better — and more enjoyably — in "Friends With Benefits."

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A crisply contemporary, notably grown-up romantic comedy directed and co-written by "Easy A" director Will Gluck, the bi-coastal picture goes a long way in bringing sexy back to a soggy genre, benefiting greatly from the presence of its likable leads.

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Not only do they handle the tart banter with an assured, playful give-and-take, but — surprise, surprise — they also manage to exhibit an extremely rare big screen quality: There’s actually a palpable chemistry between them.

Even though the postmodern vehicle ultimately proves guilty of adhering too closely to those very same tired rom-com conventions at which it satirically pokes fun, its fresh-faced, attractive leads inject it with a winning vitality.

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That vibe should help audiences brush aside the initial sensation of deja-vu and make this Screen Gems release an attractive proposition in its own right.

Story: Justin Timberlake's top movie and TV moments

Immediately establishing a brisk pace suited to a film set in both New York and Los Angeles, director Gluck dispenses with any creaky plot mechanics that will slow down the business at hand — bringing together hot-shot L.A.-based media art director Dylan (Timberlake) and Manhattan-based corporate headhunter Jamie (Kunis).

Video: Mila Kunis accepts Marine’s date invitation (on this page)

Not only does adventurous Jamie manage to convince him to relocate to the East Coast for a dream gig calling the shots at GQ Magazine, they find themselves jumping into each others arms, among other various body parts, even though both are still smarting from recently terminated relationships.

Despite Jamie and Dylan’s mutual declaration to maintain a strictly physical relationship, darned if those pesky emotions don’t manage to creep their way into those best-laid plans.

Video: ‘Friends’ Kunis, Timberlake have a ‘ball’ on TODAY (on this page)

Working from Keith Merryman and David Newman’s sharply observed, casually au courant script, to whch he contributed, Gluck clearly had vintage Hepburn-Tracy sophisticated comedy in the back of his head while working out the style and tempo of the production.

He also mines healthy — and well-deserved — laughs from making fun of the current state of studio romantic comedies with a mock film-within-the-film featuring an unbilled Jason Segel and Rashida Jones along with virtually every rom-com cliché under the sun.

Slideshow: Justin Timberlake through the years (on this page)

But he also succumbs to many of those very same trappings as the film progresses, including the staging of not one but two choreographed flash mob sequences—a YouTube phenom that already felt past its prime when Howie Mandel hosted a hidden-camera special earlier this year.

The hypocritical element aside, Gluck not only draws terrific performances from Kunis and Timberlake (fresh from their career-best turns in Black Swan andThe Social Network, respectively), but from a crack supporting cast.

Woody Harrelson handily steals his handful of scenes as Timberlake’s office colleague — a gung-ho, gay man’s man — while the ever-reliable Patricia Clarkson shines as Kunis’ hazy-around-the-edges, aging ‘70s groupie of a mom. Jenna Elfman puts in an effective turn as Timberlake’s world-weary big sister.

Copyright 2012 The Hollywood Reporter

Photos: Justin Timberlake

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  1. Beam him up

    Justin Timberlake performs on stage on day 29 of the iTunes Festival at The Roundhouse in London on Sept. 29, 2013. (Christie Goodwin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'Runner' laughter

    Timberlake and actress Gemma Arterton laugh as they introduce the world premiere of the film "Runner Runner" at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on Sept. 18, 2013. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Ben there

    This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Ben Affleck, left, and Timberlake in a scene from "Runner Runner." (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. To the moon, man!

    Timberlake poses with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and the awards for Best Direction, Best Editing, and Video of the Year at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 25, 2013. (Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Hands in the air

    Timberlake performs during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 25, 2013. (Rick Diamond / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Together again, briefly

    Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, Timberlake, JC Chasez and Lance Bass of *NSYNC perform during a reunion at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 25, 2013. (Rick Diamond / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A look 'Inside'

    Timberlake, center, stars in a scene from the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" alongside Oscar Isaac, left, and Carey Mulligan. (Alison Rosa / CBS films via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. It's BETter here

    Timberlake joins Charlie Wilson, Pharrell Williams, and Snoop Lion onstage during the 2013 BET Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles on June 30, 2013. (Kevin Mazur / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Justin Cannes do

    Timberlake promotes "inside Llewyn Davis" along with actor Garrett Hedlund, left, actress Carey Mulligan and actor Oscar Isaac, right, at the 66th Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2013. (Valery Hache / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. He put on his suit and tie

    Timberlake and his wife, actress Jessica Biel, arrive at the Time 100 gala celebrating the magazine's naming of the 100 most influential people in the world for the past year, in New York on April 23, 2013. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. In the House

    First lady Michelle Obama speaks as musicians Mavis Staples, left, and Timberlake listen during an interactive student workshop at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 9, 2013. The first lady hosted middle and high school students from across the country to take part in the workshop on "Soulsville, USA: The History of Memphis Soul." (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Fallon's main man

    Timberlake, center, performs during a skit on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" along with A.D. Miles, Tom Shillue, Fallon and Chris Tartar on March 12, 2013. Timberlake is a recurring guest on the late night show. (NBC via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bring it on down to Veganville!

    A tofu Timberlake performs, alongside Bobby Moynihan, during a "Saturday Night Live" skit on March 9, 2013. (NBC via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Grammy guys

    Timberlake and Jay-Z perform during the 55th Annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2013. (Christopher Polk / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Entertainer of the Year

    Timberlake accepts the award for Entertainer of the Year onstage during Spike TV's 6th Annual "Guys Choice Awards" at Sony Pictures Studios in 2012. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Foray into the future

    Justin Timberlake announces Myspace TV, a social TV service that will be available on Panasonic connected televisions, at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Timberlake is the company's co-owner. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Justin 'Time'?

    Timberlake took on an action hero role in 2011's "In Time." (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rap it in a bow

    Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon perform "The History of Rap," a lively medley of rap song excerpts, on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." The two performed part one in 2010 and part two in 2011. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Couch potatoes

    Timberlake and Mila Kunis star in 2011's "Friends with Benefits" as a couple who think they can keep their relationship strictly physical. (Screen Gems) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Bad boy

    In 2011's "Bad Teacher," Timberlake gets geeky (if not freaky) with star Cameron Diaz; here, he takes a stroll down the red carpet at the film's New York premiere. (Jason Kempin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Making a spectacle

    Gentlemen who wear glasses (like Timberlake) get passes from girls without glasses (Cameron Diaz, left) in 2011's "Bad Teacher." (Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Mother's day

    Timberlake more than made up for any worry he may have given mom Lynn Harless growing up by taking her to the 83rd annual Academy Awards in 2011. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Bearing it all

    Timberlake provided the voice of Boo Boo for 2010's "Yogi Bear" and dropped in on the premiere at Mann Village Theater in Westwood, Calif. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Clothes make the man

    Timberlake proved himself a fashion designer as well as singer and actor by launching the William Rast clothing line with old pal Juan "Trace" Ayala, right, in 2005. Here, they take the runway for some welcome applause at 2010's Fashion Week in New York. (Stefan Gosatti / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Crowd sourcing

    Timberlake wasn't just in New York for his own collection; he also took a seat with Jessica Biel at the Paris68 Fall 2010 Fashion Show. (Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Power player

    In 2010's "The Social Network," Timberlake played Napster founder Sean Parker as a poisonous mentor to Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. (Merrick Morton / Columbia Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Extra toppings

    Timberlake worked opposite Mike Myers on "The Love Guru" in 2008. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. You shoulda put a ring on it

    Timberlake played one of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" backup dancers when she appeared on "Saturday Night Live" in 2008 to spoof her famous video. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Back to the future

    No matter what other ventures he is involved in, Timberlake is first and foremost a musician: Here, he performs in Abu Dhabi during the final show for his FutureSex/LoveShow World Tour in 2007. (Dave Hogan / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Strong armed

    Timberlake played cuckolded boyfriend Ronnie in 2007's "Black Snake Moan." (Paramount Vantage) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Step one, cut a hole in a box

    Timberlake and Andy Samberg starred in the Emmy-winning "Saturday Night Live" short "(Bleep) in a Box" in 2006. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Fore-ward motion

    With a 6 handicap, Timberlake is also a crack golfer; here, he takes a swing at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in Palm Desert, Calif., in 2006. (Mike Guastella / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Scoring points

    Back in 2006, the future "Bad Teacher" co-stars Timberlake and Cameron Diaz were still an item, and even showed up on "Saturday Night Live" together. Here, they catch some basketball as the Los Angeles Lakers take on the L.A. Clippers. (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Ganging up

    In 2006's "Alpha Dog," Timberlake played a gang member who gets in way over his head. (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Clothes riot

    Janet Jackson and Timberlake right secretly planned for him to grab at her costume while performing at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, but got more (and less) than they bargained for, when the wardrobe "malfunctioned" and Jackson was briefly exposed to 140 million viewers. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Two in the hand

    Following the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson at the 2004 SuperBowl, Timberlake was told he'd be barred from the 46th annual Grammys if he didn't apologize. As he accepted the first of two honors he would win that night, Timberlake offered up a scripted "sorry" speech. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Staged behavior

    Tattooed and confident, with a super-short haircut, Timberlake wowed on his "Justfied/Stripped" tour with Christina Aguilera in 2003. (Getty Images / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Hand it over

    Prior to going solo and turning to acting, Timberlake had fans screaming whenever he performed with boy band N'Sync; here in 2001 he shakes hands before the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas. (Frank Micelotta / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Forever in blue jeans

    Long before he went into the fashion business, Timberlake made some daring forays into clothing ... including this questionable matching ensemble with then-girlfriend Britney Spears. The two wore the clothing to the 2001 American Music Awards, where she co-hosted. (Lucy Nicholson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Retro chic

    N'Sync was one of the 1990s' top-selling boy bands; their first album sold 11 million units, thanks in part to the charisma of co-lead singer Timberlake, who shared the stage with J.C. Chasez. Here, he gets the audience jumping on their 2000 world tour. (Getty Images / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Hair today

    Timberlake attended the Wango Tango Concert in 2000 in Los Angeles while still a member of N'Sync.. (Getty Images / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Boy, oh boy

    Four years after forming, N'Sync (from left to right, Lance Bass, Timberlake, Joey Fatone, J.C. Chasez and Chris Kirkpatrick) could stand tall at 1999's WB Radio Music Awards in Las Vegas. (Brenda Chase / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Exclusive club

    Who's the leader of one of the greatest clubs in the world? Hard to tell, but "Mickey Mouse Club's" classes of 1989-94 spawned some of the biggest future names in music and acting, including Britney Spears (blue vest), Christina Aguilera (next to Britney), Keri Russell (front of Christina), J.C. Chasez (left front), Timberlake (behind J.C.) and Ryan Gosling (second from top right). (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: iTunes Festival 2013 Day 29 - Justin Timberlake
    Christie Goodwin / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (43) Justin Timberlake
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