Friends with Benefits (Movie Review)

This is about the movie. If that’s not what you were searching for, I think that room is down the hall.

I was watching for the articles, I swear!

I was watching for the articles, I swear!

Anyway, tonight I watched Friends with Benefits starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. Yes, you can predict the entire plot of the movie from the poster. I didn’t come to this movie expecting a cinematic revelation and if you did you’re an idiot.

What this movie has, though is a lot of witty dialogue and some genuinely identifiable moments, such as the breakup scenes or moments with Timberlake’s family in Los Angeles.

The characters are two beautiful, successful people with rough histories with relationships. They come to business become good friends… I think you get it.

For all that it was predictable, there is no dull moment, as every second these two characters interact is a delight. They have great on-screen chemistry and the dialogue just bounces along beautifully.

There are two very moving minor roles I’d like to highlight too. Firstly Woody Harrelson as the gay sports reporter. It sounds like a one-note character and for the most part he is, but the small switch of sexuality in an old trope really makes the character come alive. He also gets one of the best scenes that doesn’t include both leads. Overacted wonderfully to create an entirely believable character.

Secondly is Richard JenkinsAlzheimer’s suffering father. The pain he feels over lost love and lost memories is palpable, and I think you can really see the man he was and the man Timberlake’s character looked up to along with the shades of himself he is gradually becoming.

I like Romantic Comedies. They’re uplifting, relatable in a very stylized way (something the movie comments on itself before falling into its own tropes) and sometimes even funny. If you’re like me, then Friends with Benefits is for you. It’s well worth a watch, even if it’s not in my top 5 Rom Coms.

If your tastes don’t run the same way, this is probably one to give a miss, as it doesn’t really push any boundaries or create anything new. That is, if you get bored of looking at Justin and Mila for 90 minutes. If so, then I’m just not sure who you are any more.

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30 Days Challenge: Day 9: Your definition of love

I was going to skip this as ‘trite’ with a sarcastic comment, then I saw an angle to go at it from, so I’m actually going to talk about this.

Firstly, I’m not going to talk about the love for family or friends. Much as both have supported me through so much that I may not be here today without certain members of either group, I think it’s an easier question to answer, much as it is often far more important than romantic love in certain points in one’s life.

Anyway, I think the route to everlasting love goes through two stages. First, you have the douchy-analytical cum optimistic phase, followed later by what I’m going to call the You Did What?! phase.

First, you find someone attractive in one (or more) of three ways: aesthetic appeal, sexual appeal and social appeal.

A lot of people might say that “aesthetic appeal” and “sexual appeal” are the same thing. I disagree. Have you never found someone attractive whom you didn’t want to sleep with? To most people, the answer is yes. To the rest of you, I think you should consider either your standards or your honesty with yourself.

The example I often use for aesthetic appeal is Kiera Knightly. She has an appealing look and a friendly face. I really enjoy watching her in movies and listening to her accent1. That said, I’m not sexually attracted to her. My personal taste runs to women with more womanly curves. A friend once joked that there’d be “nothing to play with” once you had a slender girl like Ms. Knightley in bed. I’d still happily watch her in any movie she popped up in.

Love love love her storyline in Love Actually.

Secondly is sexual attraction. Everyone has their type, interests, turn-ons or whatever else you want to call that spark that makes you Want someone with a capital W. Most people understand that on an instinctive level, so I won’t bother going into here.

Lastly is what I called “social appeal”. It’s not a perfect label, but it represents your desire to talk to someone and to be around them. It’s your desire to be their friend. For some people it’s cinematic, musical, political or comedic compatibility. Whatever it is, it’s that thing that makes friends into best friends and fuck buddies into partners.

This is the clincher, I think, when it comes to love. If you have the last with at least one other type of appeal, you’ve really got something. It’s at this point that many people say the L word. Sometimes it’s a door to pass through to get to the real stuff, other times it’s just new relationship energy given control of the mouth, and in others still it’s a verbalisation of proto-love – the stuff that inevitably leads there, but before the You Did What?! stage.

The You Did What?! stage is the most important one for longevity, I think It’s knowing all the worst, shittiest things about each other and still wanting to curl up together to watch bad TV. If you can survive the worst of your past, then with just a little work, you can survive anything as a team. This stage also involves coming to terms with anything they are or do every day. Perhaps not easy, but if it’s right it’s right. If there’s something you know you can’t live with forever, then you’re just treading water.

Okay, that did turn out a little trite, and you mileage may of course vary. This is my opinion based on a number of needlessly complicated relationships. But basically, love is facing shit as a team, rather than a pair of singles players2.

1I think I’ve spoken on this blog of my love of accents before. Therefore it shall go undiscussed now.
2Ew, sports metaphor! Get it off, get it off!

On love, sex, karma and parallel universes

Hello, imaginary reader. Yes, I know I owe you a couple of “challenge” posts. They’re coming. Don’t be so impatient.

Being the attractive man that I am (see figure 1), I get the opportunity to think about love and relationships quite a lot. Either that, or because I’m a drama-magnet. One of the two.

Figure 1

Anyway, I was thinking about that well-known expression “the one that got away”. Conventional knowledge suggests that everyone has one of these – at least. But what about the one that keeps getting away. You know the one – you really click but the timing is never right. Either he/she has a partner or you do, or you’re sitting typing in a Mexican Jewish school while she’s in the UK with her husband… that kind of thing.

At the same time, I was thinking about karma. Now, I’m taking baby-steps into a more spiritual pagan path. Dangerous steps for a vehement athiest. Nonetheless, the idea of karma appeals to me – either in a literal, spiritual sense; as a coping method when faeces hits the air conditioning; or as a psychosomatic effect of having fucked up and knowing it.

It appeals to me in a literal sense in part because of this quote (0:38)

The idea of “what goes around comes around” is so much more elegent than having a self-richeous giant with a beard dictate the rules. But then you have to assume that all starving, HIV-positive babies in wartorn countries were high-ranking SS officiers in a past life. Dubious, no?

As a coping method I can kind of get it, too. “I can get over this, because it’ll balance out when I downloaded a movie illegally and would be destined to firey hell in certain Southern US states” for example.

As far as pyschosomatics goes, (don’t worry, I’m coming back to love, sex and parallel universes -stick with me) the idea that we allow ourselves to enter into difficult situations or incite certain concequences upon ourselves without consciously knowing it is the kind of crap our Western civilisation does all the time. Just look at 9 out of 10 diet plans on sale in your local bookshop – “one cake and five hail-marys” kind of stuff. The need to redeem ourselves through flagellation (self- or otherwise) has roots in the history of many big, angry organised religions.

So, I’ve started to look at it like this – all those missed opportunities and mistakes and karmic just deserts are there to help us avoid a much less positive parallel universe. Think about it: what would you have missed if you had married your high school sweetheart. What would you have failed to learn if you hadn’t dated that weird girl in college. Would you have ever tried tofu if not to spite the guy with a pathological hatred of vegans?

Back to my original example, what if you stayed in the UK with that girl with whom the timing is never right, and never met the cool Welsh teacher in Mexico City?

If you try to look at karma, at those that got away and all the shit life throws at us as the universe trying to keep us from a grim alternative timeline, it has a way of making life look a little more positive. It also allows me to post this poster:

So there you go. Some ham-fisted philosophy written over two busy days.