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Friends with Benefits(2011)
The relationship between two friends gets complicated when they decide to get romantic.
For more about Friends with Benefits and the Friends with Benefits Blu-ray release, see Friends with Benefits Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 13, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins, Emma Stone
Director: Will Gluck
» See full cast & crew
Friends with Benefits Blu-ray Review
Will fans find any benefit to making friends with this Blu-ray release?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 13, 2011
I wish my life was a movie sometimes.
Friends with Benefits is something of a semi-self-aware Romantic Comedy that attempts to differentiate between the realities of life outside the movie theater and the themes and plot elements that define the typical escapist feel-good Romantic Comedy genre picture. Does love always play out as it does in the movies, where two characters meet, slowly fall for one another, but arrive to some sort of impassable obstacle, only to fall back in love and live happily ever after, sharing the "big kiss" in the perfect setting and in conjunction with the perfect romantic melody? Or is life and love far more complicated than that, defined not by a whimsically magical script, storybook locations, perfect makeup, appropriate costumes, and just the right song playing at just the right time to perfectly reinforce every overt emotion in the movie but instead built around inescapable truths about the complexities of human relationships, characteristics, past experiences, and personal choices, not to mention sometimes questionable dress and hygiene and most certainly an absence of theme music to help in the identification of a special moment? About the only thing that fact and fiction seem to have in common when it comes to this "crazy little thing called love" is the influence and unpredictability of fate, which itself might very well be history's most successful matchmaker, anyway. Friends with Benefits expertly traverses the tricky business of love, and just maybe, shows that life could use a little more of that magical cinematic whimsy, while the typical Romantic Comedy might benefit from a little more spice and honest slice-of-life realism.
Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is the head honcho at an up-and-coming website. His natural editorial strengths have made him the target of GQ magazine. The prestigious publication is prepared to make him an offer most people couldn't refuse, but there's one problem: Dylan is a Californian through-and-through; there's no way he could ever move to New York. That is, until, he politely arrives to indulge the magazine with a courtesy interview and meets Jamie (Mila Kunis), a young woman whose mission is simple: sell Dylan on the job and on New York before he heads back home and to his old, comfortable job. She, of course, succeeds. Dylan becomes one of the most important people at one of the country's most recognizable magazines, but it turns out moving to New York had another benefit: a burgeoning -- and completely platonic -- relationship with Jamie, who quickly becomes Dylan's best friend. One night, a discussion of the ins-and-outs of Romantic Comedies -- what really does happen after that magical final kiss, and what really should and would have happened to the couple through their relationship in real life -- lead Dylan and Jamie to mull over the idea of no-strings sex. They talk one another into exploring the possibilities, and they quickly develop a rich and satisfying but emotionless sex life. But can they remain best pals while sharing the same bed? Will their sex life bring them closer to that Hollywood magic moment, or will the complications of real life split them apart?
it's a rarity these days, but Friends with Benefits is actually a very good sex-centric Romantic Comedy. There are a number of factors working in its favor, including the aforementioned self-awareness. It's a real pleasure to watch the movie stray from, embrace, stray from, embrace, and so on and so forth the typical Romantic Comedy elements. The back-and-forth feels so natural thanks to the characters' desire to stay away from make-believe, only to inadvertently or, sometimes, deliberately slip into Hollywood Romantic Comedy bliss. The movie just exudes a very carefree and happy-go-lucky but at the same time smart, clever, and strongly-constructed tenor. The film is often all over the place, but it works because that's what life is: full of uncertainties, new ideas, ebbs and flows, happiness and sadness, secrets and reveals, and a general unpredictability. It's the latter that makes this a good, maybe great, sometimes borderline spectacular entry into its genre. Friends with Benefits perfectly bobs and weaves in and out of various elements, both original and wholly cliché, and does so with a self-assuredness that's largely absent in similar films. It knows it's got something special going on, and there's not really much of a flaw anywhere in the movie; maybe it could have toned down the sex and focused a bit more on the plot, but the couple's intimacy is so much a part of the story that the undercover action never feels too intrusive or gratuitous.
The sex -- and everything else -- really works because the leads are just so good together that the whole things captures a pleasantly realistic and balanced tone. Nothing feels grossly exaggerated for sheer comic effect, which comes back to that self-aware element that allows the film to go to various extremes while remaining firmly within the basic confines of the plot. And boiled down, this is still a pretty basic boy-meets-girl tale, just explored through a somewhat different prism than the usual sorts of movie Friends with Benefits so openly mocks but at the same time so openly embraces. It's amazing at how effortlessly, intelligently, and humorously the movie explores such complex issues like life and love and friendship. It eagerly and expertly explores ideas on human emotion, interconnection, commitment, and understanding. Can sex and friendship co-exist? Does intimacy yield an emotional attachment that runs deeper than a close personal but platonic connection? Can the combination of sex and friendship create something that neither alone can make, or are one or both just pleasant byproducts of destined souls, time together, and an agreeable alignment of those core elements noted above, emotion, connection, commitment, and understanding? Actors Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are so good together, and the script so smart and balanced, that such questions aren't necessarily answered, at least not overtly so as they are in other films of this sort, and that's perfectly fine. The relationship remains both realistically complex but also Hollywood magically simple through to the end, an end which will probably leave viewers divided on what fate really has in store for the characters and what the movie is really trying to say about life, love, sex, and friendship in both the real world and in the movies.
That it's this far into the review and there's still been no mention that Friends with Benefits basically explores the same territory as another new-ish movie, No Strings Attached, goes to show just how well Director Will Gluck's film stands on its own. It doesn't need the comparative crutch because it's nowhere near as shallow and dull as that one-trick pony, but given that Friends with Benefits is the Deep Impact, the A Bug's Life (read: the better of these "similar movies coming out at the same time" movies), of the two, maybe a quick overview of the differences will help audiences decide which one to try. Friends with Benefits is the far more complex but at the same time the far more interesting and dynamic of the two; it enjoys the merging of all of the qualities necessary to elevate a movie above genre norm, elements far too often lacking in Sex Comedies that eschew deeper plot elements and certainly far better developed characters, hoping instead that lame situational humor will carry the movie to box office success. Friends with Benefits has a real story to tell, with real characters and emotions, believable situations, and an understanding of what it is, where it's going, and both the real-life and movie-magic expectations that anymore go into love, friendship, and everything in between. Where other movies stop at the idea, Friends with Benefits fully explores via an intelligent and well-constructed script the ins-and-outs of the concept in tandem with smart direction, sound editing, and excellent acting. It's about time the Romantic Comedy boldly goes where it should have gone a long time ago.
Friends with Benefits Blu-ray, Video Quality
Friends with Benefits scores a nice looking 1080p Blu-ray transfer from Sony. The digital photography doesn't yield as much character as do film transfers, but this is nevertheless a steady, accurate, and pleasant image. It's noticeably glossy, but not troublesomely or distractingly so. Skin textures often look a little lifeless and smooth and clumps of natural vegetation -- particularly in the park scene where Jamie meets the man who stares at trees -- look undefined and jumbled together, but general detailing is often exceptional. The many city exteriors look fantastic, whether at day or at night. Clarity is astonishing, and the level of complex detailing on city surfaces, including streets and buildings, is simply marvelous. Colors are wonderful and natural, even at night and under various lighting sources, the transfer delivers a very handsome array of hues that both define and compliment the film's settings and styles nicely. Flesh tones appear naturally balanced, and black levels are quite strong. Sony's image is incredibly stable; where HD video sources often struggle with banding, there's only trace amounts here. Aliasing is not a problem, either, even on potentially troublesome and prone objects. Sony's done it again; Friends with Benefits looks great on Blu-ray.
Friends with Benefits Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Friends with Benefits features a quality, but not quite perfect, DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. It's often spunky, active, and satisfying, but it also seems to be lacking that last little nudge towards excellence. Music enjoys a good presence; it's not the most balanced, energetic, spacious, or seamless presentation out there, sometimes sounding a touch cramped, but the overall effect is quite good. Music is complimented by a balanced and strong low end, perhaps demonstrated no better than during the brief stretch of a Kriss Kross song that plays in the movie. Light ambience is handled well, but like the music, it doesn't always seem quite as natural, satisfying, and spacious as it could be. Whether the hum of a jet engine as heard inside the cabin, light background chatter and the general din at baggage claim, or background music at an outdoor event, the track never seems to create the perfectly seamless atmosphere. Still, the track does a fair-to-good job with every element. It never lacks in effort, and for a Romantic Comedy, the results are more than acceptable. Rounded out by steady and center-focused dialogue, Friends with Benefits sounds fairly good overall on Blu-ray.
Friends with Benefits Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Friends with Benefits arrives on Blu-ray with a Romantic Comedy-average assortment of supplements, the collection headlined by an actor/director audio commentary track.
Friends with Benefits Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Friends with Benefits is definitely the surprise Romantic Comedy movie of the past few years. Finally, a genre picture knowingly and joyfully both eschews and embraces cliché, exploring relationships through the prisms of reality and movie magic, friends and sex, business and pleasure, and life and love, all without becoming a jumbled, incoherent mess. On the contrary, this is a wonderfully breezy but at the same time thematically complex picture. It's as smart as it is sexy, as structurally sound as it is genuinely funny. The leads are fantastic, and the script and direction are almost equally impressive. Sony's Blu-ray release isn't bad, either. Strong video and audio are complimented by a few solid but ultimately routine extras. Highly recommended.
Friends with Benefits: Other Editions
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Friends with Benefits Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Friends with Benefits Blu-ray - September 21, 2011
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring Friends with Benefits to Blu-ray this December. Director Will Gluck's follow-up to his acclaimed Easy A stars Mila Kunis (Black Swan) and Justin Timberlake (The Social Network) as two friends trying to introduce sex ...
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