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Friends with Benefits
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this R-rated romcom stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as adult friends who decide to make their relationship sexual with no commitments (hence the "benefits" of the title). Consequently, there's plenty of frank, direct sexual talk and content, with partial nudity, simulated sex acts, innuendoes, and free-wheeling discussions about sexual preferences and relationships. There's also social drinking and swearing (including "s--t" and "f--k"). It's adult fare, but it does ultimately have positive messages about true love.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Hard-driving executive recruiter Jamie (Mila Kunis) successfully persuades up-and-coming art director Dylan (Justin Timberlake) to take a job offer from GQ magazine and move to New York from California. Before long, they've become good friends, watching (and deriding) romantic comedies, exploring the city, and getting to know each other. They've each just extricated themselves from a hilariously dysfunctional relationship and aren't eager to jump into new ones. One problem: They miss sex. Hence the agreement to be each other's commitment-free "friend with benefits." The arrangement works like a charm ... until it doesn't. Can their friendship survive the complications that romantic feelings bring, or should they be friends no more?
Is it any good?
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS may be formulaic, but surprisingly it's still pretty good. It tries hard to rise above the romcom cliches -- even going so far as to mock the fantasies that the worst movies of the genre spin -- though it inevitably follows the same trajectories, serving up a happily-ever-after ending that the audience spots from the moment the two leads meet.
Still, Friends with Benefits is surprisingly entertaining, thanks in part to Kunis -- who combines comedic chops with gorgeous-but-approachable looks and a winning personality -- and a parade of gifted supporting actors (Jenna Elfman, Woody Harrelson, and the always tip-top Patricia Clarkson and Richard Jenkins) who can do no wrong. Timberlake manages to stay above water; sometimes, he's even persuasively charming. Yet you have to wonder what this movie could have been had it not given into the expected outcome, coming up instead with an ending that would still be satisfying but bold and -- dare we say it -- more realistic. No such luck.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of a "friends with benefits" relationship. What messages does that kind of arrangement convey about love and commitment? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values when it comes to dating and relationships.
The movie suggests that romantic comedies create unrealistic expectations in both men and (especially) women about relationships. Does this movie attempt to change these expectations or foster them?
Ultimately, what's the appeal of romantic comedies? Although they tend to follow the same predictable formula, they remain popular. Why do you think that is?