It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Friends With Benefits" follows rom-com formulas as if directed on autopilot, but that's not to say it isn't fun. This is the second movie this year to ask whether it's possible to have sex with someone without falling in love, and the second to arrive at a mistaken conclusion — because of course it is. It's just not possible if you're Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, and the audience likes you and demands a romantic fadeout. I propose this as a rule: No movie with big stars and a big budget can allow them to enjoy big-time sex and then split them up at the end.
The news about this movie is that it makes it clear that both Timberlake and Kunis are the real thing when it comes to light comedy. Since they earlier proved themselves in dramas ("The Social Network" and "Black Swan"), that must indicate they're the real thing in general. Now all they have left to conquer are comic-book superheroes.
She plays Jamie, an executive headhunter in New York City. He plays Dylan, a hotshot art director for a website that gets 6 million hits a month. That allows him to work with an office full of employees. (My website gets more hits and only has one employee, but obviously Dylan's firm has a better head for business.) Jamie persuades Dylan to fly to New York and interview for a dream job: an art director for GQ magazine. He's cool to the idea, but she persuades him in one evening during which she is about as charming as it's possible for one person to be, even if she's Meg Ryan.
One dinner date leads to another. You know what's coming. They share that they've had bad luck with relationships, they swear they're not looking for a new one, and they agree to have pure physical sex with no emotional strings attached. This leads to activity under a blanket in which it's not difficult to figure out (from the way things move around under there out of sight) what's happening. This scene is well-written, well-directed, and well-acted — and such scenes involve a good deal of comic ability.