Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The double feature...

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I saw Friends With Benefits twice on Sunday.  I started off my day with the early church service and then my friend JC and I caught the first showing of it at Cinemark.  We thought we might be late since it started at 10:35 and church went a little over… but JC bought my ticket, and we got there just in time.  I loved it… great movie.  I’ll go in to more detail in just a bit…

After seeing it with JC, I headed to Bixby for a pool party.  I ran into one of Brett’s friends from Optometry School at the wedding Saturday.  Chad lives in North Carolina now and was only in town for one day, so he invited us to come hang out for a bit before he had to get on his flight home.  So Brett met me at the movie theater and we headed that way.  The pool party lasted just until the rain started… I know, right… the first day it rains in forever.  It’s pretty much guaranteed to rain if I wash Kit or go to a pool party.  For the sake of all of you, I’ll try to do both more often.  J 

Anyway, after everyone at the pool party went our separate ways, Brett and I were hungry.  So we headed to Cheddar’s for a quick dinner.  Since we were right there by the theater and I could tell that my telling him how much I loved the movie made him wish he’d got to see it (even though he’d never admit it), I offered to take him to see it again.  Hence the second showing…

It was still good the second time.  This really turned out to be one of the best romantic comedies I’d seen in a while.  A few of the things in it struck home with me and a few of them opened my eyes to some things I hadn’t thought about.  Now for the review… don’t read the rest of this blog until after you’ve seen the movie… and trust me… you want to see this movie.

Disclaimer… this movie is not kid or grandparent friendly.  There’s enough simulated sex (and naked booty shots of both lead actors) that watching this in mixed company will leave you embarrassed.  I should also warn you that if you don’t already have the song Closing Time downloaded to your iPod… you will when the movie is over.

Friends With Benefits attempts to make fun of romantic comedies, while exploiting the same formula. Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) don’t start out as BFFs.  She’s a NYC headhunter who recruits him from an Internet blog in LA for an executive position at GQ magazine. 

To borrow from The Holiday, their meet cute was a good one… she’s scrambling on top of an airport baggage carousel chasing after a sign with his name on it.  He’s witty and wide-eyed and makes fun of her a little just before she declares that she's the girl who's going to change his life.  Soon they’re walking and talking.  She needs him to take the job to earn her bonus.  He needs more than just a job to convince him to uproot.  So she sweetens the deal by showing him around what she calls “the real New York.”  This tour includes a flash mob in Times Square… which kind of made me want to organize one in Tulsa.  J

Their professional relationship, then growing friendship, enters the picture well before the idea of sex between the two of them.  Despite an attraction to each other, both realize they're everything they've been running from in a relationship (he’s emotionally unavailable and she’s emotionally damaged) and they share complicated family dynamics that leave them equally unsuited to long-term relationships.  Because of their issues, they decide to see what happens if they leave emotion out of it and keep it strictly physical.

The movie may strike some conservative people (like myself) as vulgar… but if you reject it on that alone, you might as well just reject the times we are living in.  Once you get past the first uncomfortable sex scene, you will find in their offhand rapport and mutual amusement the foundation of a real connection.

If you’re a sucker for a good love story (like I am) you’ll enjoy this one.  It’s cute and sweet.  The dialogue is witty and fun.  The actors were great.  Kunis really shines in her role and Timberlake has definitely come a long way from his boy band days.  They are nicely matched in their roles and the chemistry between the two of them is enchanting.  I found this to be a very impressive romantic comedy… but it’s not just romantic… it’s also dramatic.  The supporting roles were also well-cast.  Everyone from Jamie’s mom to Dylan’s sister to his gay coworker Tommy really added elements to the movie that were refreshing.  Don’t get me wrong… I love a good romantic comedy… but it has to be more than just a little mushy for me to want to buy the DVD.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of drama in it.  In some scenes, it's almost more intriguing to watch the mother-daughter and father-son interactions, then that of Jamie and Dylan.  The drama aspect definitely gave the flick much more depth and character. Despite the sex and witty one-liners, it’s the sentiment that keeps you hooked. 

One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Dylan’s dad, who has Alzheimer’s… and something against wearing pants… finds an empty table at a crowded airport cafe while Dylan is unsuccessfully trying to get the hostess to move them up on the wait list.  His dad takes off his pants and sits down.  When Dylan comes over to get his dad (who clearly has no intention of getting up) he has a change of heart.  His dad asks him if he’s going to sit down.  Dylan doesn’t fight his dad and risk embarrassing him in front of the judging audience.  Instead he pauses for only a moment, then says yes, takes off his pants and sits down across from his dad.  They have a heart-to-heart where his dad reveals a missing link from his past and the role it played in his parents’ failed marriage.  This scene is powerful for two reasons… the first because he accepted his dad.  He met him where he was at.  He didn’t care what people thought or how they might respond.  He just did what his dad needed, which was simply to be accepted.  We could all do this a little more in our lives.  Instead of fighting what we think is socially unacceptable, we need to look at the needs of the individual.  Not just with people who are sick, but with those who are simply different.  The second reason this scene is powerful is because it was the first time in the movie the dad was taken seriously.  It allowed for that seriousness to be even that much more profound.  He explains to his son that what this illness has taught him is that life is too short to not enjoy it.  And that if you love someone you should never let them go.  Dylan had probably heard that a million times in his life, but it took hearing it in this situation, in this moment, to really discover his true feelings and what he really wanted… and more importantly… to go after it.  Enter second flash mob.  J

The demands of this romantic comedy are still to affirm love, make it fun and keep audiences believing.  Too many movies attempt this by denying the obvious, glossing over the truth or relying on the charm of two stars.  Fortunately, Friends With Benefits takes a different route.  At one point in the movie Dylan asks, “Why do women think the only way to get a man to do what they want is to manipulate him?"  Jamie’s response… "History.  Personal experience.  Romantic comedies."  So true.  J  The movie starts from the premise that you are sick of the romantic comedy clichés you secretly adore.  It gives the stars an honest story to work with that acknowledges that the challenge facing single adults is the same as the challenge facing romantic comedy… to arrive at love in a world without rules.

And now for my favorite line of the movie… there’s always one… J  This one comes from Dylan’s friend Tommy played by Woody Harrelson (who has some of the best lines in the movie)… “You know what I discovered?  It's not who you want to spend Friday night with, it's who you want to spend all day Saturday with.”

So for all you single people… here’s to figuring out who you want to spend all day Saturday with…

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