Film Review: Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits is a lot of fun. Like its protagonists, the film is imperfect. Nonetheless, it is still a very enjoyable romantic comedy.

Both recently out of relationships, headhunter Jamie meets creative director Dylan as she tries to persuade him to take a job with GQ Magazine. The two become friends, as they bond over their mutual derision of romantic clichés. One evening, Dylan and Jamie decide that no strings sex won’t complicate their friendship. The arrangement works, but only temporarily…

Friends with Benefits is very funny in places. The humour is consistent, which makes the film more enjoyable throughout. It can be crass at times, but this isn’t a bad thing. The comedy is always on the money.

Will Gluck’s film is particularly interesting as it overtly references many romantic-comedy clichés. Friends with Benefits playfully makes fun of these conventions, and even at the stars of recent rom-coms. Nevertheless, the second half of the film then adheres to these same stereotypical traits. It is a little disappointing that Friends with Benefits does not try to be a bit more original in this respect. The sense of predictability is however outweighed by the comedy; the numerous laughs negate the lack of innovation.

Part of the reason that Gluck’s film works so well is that the characters are likeable. Dylan and Jamie are believable in their relationship; their interactions appear natural and spontaneous. Moreover, the supporting characters function well to keep the emphasis on the two protagonists while providing some back-story.

Another interesting facet of Friends with Benefits is its use of technology. The film is very contemporary, with its reliance on mobile phones and the internet as integral to the narrative. It is also rather amusing that T-Mobile is slated in the film, and yet the flash mobs (which the company used to publicise its campaigns) are used to great affect.

Performances in the film are good. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have great chemistry, which makes them very easy to watch. Both seem to have a flair for this type of comedy. Elsewhere, Patricia Clarkson delivers a star turn as Lorna and Emma Stone is fantastic in the opening scene.

The soundtrack to the film is also very good. Music is used to great effect, as well as being referenced within the film.  All in all, Friends with Benefits is a bit of a rarity; a formulaic rom-com that will actually make you laugh.

Film Review: Easy A

Easy A is a witty film that both replicates and parodies teen movie conventions. Although it does not reach the higher echelons of the likes of Mean Girls, it is fun and inventive nevertheless.

When Olive is overheard telling her friend Rhiannon about losing her virginity, the rumour spreads around high school like wildfire. Although the story isn’t true, Olive begins to enjoy the notoriety of being the school slut. Olive’s life, however, begins to resemble that of Hester Prynne’s in The Scarlet Letter, the book she is studying at school…

Stripped back to its narrative basics, Easy A trends a familiar path in teen movie terrain. While it is concerned with social standing and romance like most other films in the genre, Easy A turns convention on its head somewhat by having a female protagonist who actively encourages rumours about her promiscuity. Rather than shy away or be mortified at the gossip, Olive uses it to her advantage, benefiting financially and in social standing.

Easy A is very witty, but not laugh-out-loud hilarious. The film elevates itself above many of its peers by overtly referencing the 1980s teen films (and John Hughes in particular) that clearly have influenced writer Bert V. Royal. Thus, Easy A does not just feature elements of 1980s teen films, but also actively make reference to them. Most evident of these is Say Anything, which is paid a delightful homage by Easy A.

Olive is an amiable protagonist who uses her wit to deflect the hostility of her classmates. It is clear from the interactions with her family that she is a smart and well-balanced girl, which makes her easy to relate to. Elsewhere, Easy A features some teen movie stereotypes like the holier-than-thou Marianne, as well as characters that defy the archetypes, such as teacher Mrs Griffith.

Emma Stone is incredibly likeable as Olive, and proves she has the talent to headline a film. Stanley Tucci gives an amusing turn as her unconventional father. Amanda Bynes seems aptly cast as mean girl Marianne, while Penn Badgley remains untested as Todd, a character very similar to the role he plays on Gossip Girl.

Production values are good, with Olive’s webcam narration appearing entirely appropriate given the context. Director Will Gluck shows a flair for the teen film; offering the audience what they expect, with a little innovation and plenty of one-liners.

Easy A may not be raucously funny, but it is a cut above many other teen films of the last decade. Highly recommended for fans of this genre.