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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Friends With Benefits (Blu-ray)
Friends With Benefits (Blu-ray)
Screen Gems // R // December 2, 2011 // Region A
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted November 18, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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In 10 Words or Less
A movie full of good stuff

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Justin Timberlake
Likes: Good rom-coms, Mila Kunis, fun cameos
Dislikes: Jenna Elfman (but not here)
Hates: That FWB just can't work in reality

The Movie
Let's just get this out of the way: this is the romantic comedy about sex without emotion starring the girl from Black Swan. No, not that one. The other one. The one with the really likable couple in the lead. This is the story of two highly attractive people, Jamie (Mila Kunis) and Dylan (Justin Timberlake) who find it hard to date, but easy to have sex, and make a pact to do just that with each other, while remaining just friends. As anyone who has ever had romantic feelings for a friend could tell you, this just won't work, and there's a self-aware element to the movie that lets them understand the tenuous nature of their pairing. But between these sweethearts and Will Gluck's slick script and stylish direction, the film sure makes it look like fun trying to beat the odds.

Despite some really whip-smart dialogue and a rather impressive cast, the film lives and dies with Timberlake and Kunis, and it certainly lives, as they are a perfect pairing for a romantic comedy. So much of what makes a rom-com work is whether you like the actors and it's incredibly hard to not like these two. Despite the fact that they could probably coast on their good looks (and when you consider how often they are in the buff in this movie, that would be a pretty smart business plan) they both bring oversized personalities to the proceedings, and keen senses of humor. The dialogue crackles with energy as they bicker and rip on each other, making it feel like they really are friends, rather than just pretty people who are having sex.

The sex that they do have results in one of the all-time best cinematic sex scenes. Note, not the sexiest scene (though no one will look away) but the best, because they capture a bedroom experience possible if both participants are honest and not invested in maintaining a relationship. And thanks to that honesty, many of these moments are simply hilarious, with their first tryst representing a breath of fresh air in the world of sex comedy. Again, much of the credit belongs to what the actors brought to the stage, as Timberlake's confident silliness and Kunis' down-to-earth yet exotic sexiness combine to create the perfect bedroom combo.

But they don't spend the entire movie in bed, as Dylan is seemingly the highest-paid magazine art director in history, and Jamie is an executive recruiter (read: headhunter), and they each have complicated families, which gives the film it's main subplot, as their backgrounds are used to explain how they got into their relationship mindset. After watching their whirlwind meeting and coupling for the first half of the movie, you risk whiplash from the tone change, as things "get real" rapidly. In the end, these issues work their way back into something akin to the film's original whimsical, feel-good atmosphere, but it is quite a shift when it happens. It's not a fatal flaw (the use of flash mobs as a major plot element, dating the film tremendously, is more egregious, along with the strange case of the disappearing ethnic buddies for the stars) but it is abrupt. That said, it does mirror reality crashing down on their sexy fairy tale.

While Timberlake and Kunis are great fun, the cast's wealth does not end with them. Woody Harrelson, as an editor at Dylan's magazine, is tremendous fun, playing the most masculine gay best friend seen in a mainstream film, while Jenna Elfman is excellent in a small part as Dylan's sister, in the first role I've liked her in since Keeping the Faith. And as the core duo's parents, Patricia Clarkson and Richard Jenkins turn in great performances that keep the melodrama of their characters' situations from overwhelming the film. Even the cameos are loaded in this movie, with Andy Samberg, Emma Stone, Rashida Jones, Jason Segal and Masi Oka making tiny, yet entertaining appearances (along with Modern Family's Nolan Gould in a slightly larger role). But the award for scene thievery goes to snowboard champion Shaun White, who gets good laughs playing himself, though, one hopes he's not.

The Disc
The film arrives on a single Blu-Ray disc, in a standard BD keepcase with a two-sided cover, with an animated menu offering the option to watch the film, select scenes, adjust the subtitles and check out the extras. The disc offers audio in English and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio description track, while subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified) and Korean.

The Quality
The 2.40:1 1080p transfer is impressive across the board, with appropriate color, a consistently sharp, detailed image and nice fleshtones and black levels. There's a wide variety of settings in this film, from clear city nights and cloudy days on the Pacific Ocean to ultra-modern apartments and the hills of Los Angeles, and they all look terrific, especially during the New York City scenes. Gluck's put together some beautiful visuals, and the Blu-Ray brings them home without any noticeable problems like digital artifacts or noise (partially a result of the film having been shot digitally.)

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is pretty sweet for a romantic comedy, complementing the clear, center-focused dialogue with some strong music enhancement in the surrounds, and a good deal of atmospheric sound, filling the side and rear speakers with ambient noise from the scenes. Thanks to a light soundtrack (with the exception of a well-used '90s hip-hop track) it's not the heaviest presentation, but there's nothing to really complain about either.

The Extras
Flipping over the box, I was surprised to see how many extras where included here, considering how most movies that aren't mega-franchises or genre flicks get slim pickings when it comes to bonus features. The biggest extra is certainly the audio commentary, featuring Gluck, Timberlake and Kunis. It's a fun track, as they get along great, are fast to poke fun at each other and have lots to talk about, with Gluck focusing on technical elements and the actors sharing tales from the set. If only all commentaries were so balanced and entertaining.

Up next is almost nine minutes of deleted scenes, which really should be watched, as some fun moments were left behind, including a look at a Ferris Bueller musical, more with the costumes at Grauman's Theater, and additional moments with White and Harrelson (who had more stereotypically flamboyant bits that were cut.) You get more cut material in the six-minute outtakes reel, which ironically (if you watch past the credits of the film) make it seem like a very fun set. And for those of you who don't know, JT does an impeccable Alec Guinness imitation.

The rest of the extras are exclusive to the Blu-Ray release, but DVD buyers shouldn't feel too bad. "On the Set with FWB" is a five-minute featurette about shooting on-location in New York and Los Angeles, with interviews with Gluck, Timberlake and Kunis, and it talks about the iconic elements used in the film. It's pretty polished, feeling like an EPK production, much like "In a Flash: Choreographing a Mob" the other nearly-six-minute featurette, featuring the main three and choreographer Ashley Wallen, as they talk about the big dance numbers. It's good behind-the-scenes info, but your interest will depend on your interest in flash mobs, which for most people has to be waning.

The last BD-only extra on the disc, besides some trailers, is "Bonus Benefits," a pop-up trivia track that recycles some of the info from the commentary, mixed with plenty of tangential information about things and ideas seen in the movie. If you're giving the film another viewing, it's a way to get a bit more out of the movie, so it's certainly added value, and no one should complain about that.

This disc also offers access to an UltraViolet copy of the film, for streaming or downloading, but be careful, as your code to get that online copy is on the back of a sticker on the plastic wrapping around the case when you buy the disc. If you're not paying attention to the very small print, you could easily throw this access code away.

The Bottom Line
Neither of the F-buddy films looked all that interesting when they came out, however with Timberlake and Kunis leading the way, this one started out on far firmer footing, and they delivered a fun movie that may be short on realism, but it's a hell of a good time, thanks largely to the performances of an all-around excellent cast. The Blu-Ray looks and sounds very nice, and for once, a non-genre film gets a decent spread of extras, making this release an easy one to recommend for anyone looking for a bit of breezy, well-constructed entertainment.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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