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There's no benefit to just being friends.

Byline: Damon Smith

the main feature FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (15) Starring: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, Jenna Elfman, Director: Will Gluck. 109mins. Rating: ???

FOR THE opening hour, Friends With Benefits rages against the cheesy tropes of Hollywood romantic comedies, decrying the use of soppy music to manipulate an audience''s emotions or the last-minute declarations of love that result in a Happy Ever After.

So far, so refreshing. Then in a staggering volte-face, Gluck''s film embraces every one of those conventions and contrivances to hopefully bring together its two perfectly-matched protagonists for a saccharine finale.

It''s difficult to know whether we are witnessing an act of staggering arrogance or stupidity on the part of the writers.

Friends With Benefits almost gets away with the double standards because Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are such an attractive pairing.

They spend a good deal of the film naked in bed together and look extremely comfortable in each other''s arms, so, while the film''s methods might be questionable, we''re not averse to love triumphing over clich.

Corporate headhunter Jamie (Kunis) woos talented website director Dylan (Timberlake) to New York with a view to securing his employment at GQ magazine.

She shows him around the city and quickly wins him over.

Since they both have wounded hearts, Jamie and Dylan agree that it would be perfectly acceptable to enjoy no-strings-attached sex without any possibility of them falling for each other like the sappy Hollywood romantic comedies they both loathe.

While Dylan''s sexually voracious gay work colleague Tommy (Woody Harrelson) and Jamie''s hippy mother Lorna (Patricia Clarkson) foresee trouble, the pair continue blind to the consequences.

Meanwhile, Dylan and his sister (Jenna Elfman) contend with the deteriorating health of their father (Richard Jenkins).

Friends With Benefits bears obvious similarities to the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher comedy, No Strings Attached.

The two films peddle the myth that you can divorce sex and emotions, and, in both cases, carnal desires kindle far deeper emotions for the bed-hopping protagonists.

Timberlake and Kunis are ably supported by Harrelson in scene-stealing form and the resplendent Clarkson, while the sub-plot about Jenkins''s patriarch succumbing to Alzheimer''s provides a modicum of substance beneath all of the fluffy wrapping.

Damon Smith

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Mila Kunis, as Jamie, and Justin Timberlake, as Dylan, in rom-com Friends With Benefits
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 9, 2011
Words:385
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