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Friends with Benefits is a so-so modern screwball rom-com starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis

If you like your romantic comedy films light and frothy but with a touch of modern, everyday angst, then Friends with Benefits will suit you.

Hollywood perfected the genre back in the '50s and '60s when Cary Grant played the smooth operator caught up with some scatty female, determined to mess up his perfectly good, self-centred, male life.

The endings were predictable, the settings sunny and bright, and the dialogue sharp as a knife so that everyone left the cinema feeling good.

The only problem was that the froth tended to soon vanish and it was sometimes difficult to recall all of the story two hours later – not a disaster when the chances were that you could go to see a virtually identical film the following week with only the slightest touch of déjà vu.

Friends with Benefits is a modern so-called ‘screwball' rom-com. It has a slick male lead – in this case ex-singer and developing actor Justin Timberlake – and a wholesome female character, Jamie, played by Mila Kunis, who do all the usual things of falling in and out of love for most of the 108-minute movie.

We also have a gay friend (Woody Harrelson) and, as this is America, an avalanche of product placements. For example, Justin's character, Dylan, gets a job with GQ magazine, is then headhunted by Amazon, all the while using his range of Apple products.

Dylan is a Los Angeles graphic designer, headhunted by Jamie for a job in New York on GQ. She is slick and smart and doesn't want attachments. He is slick and smart and ditto all the rest.

They start a relationship based on casual sex between consenting friends – which as any teenager will tell you, sounds a great idea but rarely works.

Jamie's dotty Mum confuses the issue, as does Dylan's gay mate and there is the usual to-ing and fro-ing until everyone gets what they want.

Mr Timberlake – last seen hamming it up as the amusing yet loathsome geek in Bad Teacher – is developing as a lightweight actor with all the sharp timing and expressions necessary.

However, if he really intends to make his name as an all-round actor, he's going to have to take on something more challenging.

One is reminded of the actor Tony Curtis, who initially made his name in numerous comedy concoctions, but gained a lasting reputation as a serious actor when he took on the role of a serial killer in The Boston Strangler.

However, you need real bottle to make such a career leap and it remains to be seen if Mr Timberlake can manage it.

Friends with Benefits (15)

Running time 108 minutes Review rating **

N2 film reviews – supported by Newbury Vue



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