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Friends with Benefits (film)

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Friends with Benefits
Theatrical release poster of Friends with Benefits
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Will Gluck
Produced by
  • Liz Glotzer
  • Will Gluck
  • Martin Shafer
  • Jerry Zucker
  • Janet Zucker
Screenplay by
  • Will Gluck
  • Keith Merryman
  • David A. Newman
Story by
Cinematography Michael Grady
Edited by Tia Nolan
Distributed by Screen Gems
Release dates
  • July 22, 2011 (2011-07-22)
Running time
109 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million[2]
Box office $149.5 million[2]

Friends with Benefits is a 2011 American romantic comedy film directed by Will Gluck, and starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in the lead roles. The film features Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenberg, Nolan Gould, Richard Jenkins, and Woody Harrelson in supporting roles.[3] The plot revolves around Dylan Harper (Timberlake) and Jamie Rellis (Kunis), who meet in New York City, and naively believe adding sex to their friendship will not lead to complications. Over time, they begin to develop deep mutual feelings for each other, only to deny it each time they are together.

Principal casting for Friends with Benifits took place over a three-month period from April to July 2010. Gluck reworked the original script and plot shortly after casting Timberlake and Kunis. Filming began in New York City on July 20, 2010, and concluded in Los Angeles in September 2010. The film was distributed by Screen Gems and was released in North America on July 22, 2011. Friends with Benefits was generally well received by film critics, most of whom praised the chemistry between the lead actors. The film became a commercial success at the box office, grossing over $149.5 million worldwide, against a budget of $35 million. It was nominated for two People's Choice Awards—Favorite Comedy Movie, and Favorite Comedic Movie Actress (Kunis)—and two Teen Choice Awards for Timberlake and Kunis.


Jamie Rellis (Mila Kunis) is an executive recruiter for a leading job agency in New York City, and Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake) works as an art director for a small internet company in Los Angeles. Jamie has the task of trying to recruit Dylan to interview for a job with GQ and begin working in New York City. Dylan comes to New York and after interviewing for the position learns from Jamie that he has been given an offer to work for GQ. At first Dylan is hesitant to accept the job and move from Los Angeles to New York. But after a fun night exploring the city with Jamie, Dylan agrees to accept the position.

The following day, Jamie presents Dylan with the contract to sign so she can land her commission for recruiting him. Not knowing anyone else in the city, he and Jamie quickly develop a strong platonic friendship. One night, they get on the topic of sex and relationships. They come to the conclusion that sex should not come with so many emotional attachments. As they both feel the need for a physical connection, they agree to have sex without emotion or commitment. After several trysts together, Jamie comes to the realization that this is not really what she wants and she would like to start dating again. She tells Dylan that they need to stop.

Jamie meets Parker (Bryan Greenberg), an oncologist, and they begin dating. After five dates, they consummate their relationship, only to break up the next morning. Trying to be sympathetic and to console her, Dylan suggests she travels with him to California over the Fourth of July weekend, while he visits his family. Initially hesitant, Jamie agrees after much persistence from Dylan. They fly to Los Angeles, where Jamie meets his sister Annie (Jenna Elfman), nephew Sammy (Nolan Gould), and father (Richard Jenkins), who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. While in California, they begin to develop strong emotional romantic feelings for each other, and share a passionate kiss, which leads to a night of close intimacy unlike any other they had shared before. However, the next day, Jamie overhears a conversation between Annie and Dylan, where Dylan admits to having no real feelings for Jamie. Hurt, she flies back to New York. A few days later, Dylan returns to New York, trying to reconcile his friendship with Jamie and find out why she has been ignoring him. He finally finds Jamie, and she informs him she overheard everything he said and has no interest in maintaining any kind of a friendship with him.

Soon after this, Jamie discovers that Dylan may be leaving the GQ position for another job before the year elapses on his contract, which would affect her commission. She confronts Dylan about this, which leads to another argument. Both begin to do some soul searching trying to come to terms with their feelings about their relationship. Jamie spends time with her mother, Lorna (Patricia Clarkson), while Dylan discusses it with Annie over the phone. His sister informs him that their father will be flying to Newark and he needs to be picked up at the airport. While at the airport, his father, in a moment of Alzheimer's-induced confusion, incorrectly recognizes a passer-by as a woman from his past. Dylan asks him about the woman, and his father, upon regaining his lucidity, says that she was a woman he met in the Navy, that she was the love of his life, and he regrets decisions he made in his youth to let her go. He tells Dylan not to do the same thing, and to go after the woman he loves, if there is any chance of saving the relationship.

Dylan realizes how he really feels about Jamie after talking with his father, and decides to go after her. He calls Jamie’s mother to set up an excuse to get Jamie to go to Grand Central Station thinking she will be picking up her mother. He arranges to have a flash mob dance to "Closing Time" set up to surprise Jamie at the station. When the moment comes, he catches up with Jamie and tells her how he really feels. Surprised and happy by this turn of events, Jamie tells him to kiss her. After sharing a passionate kiss, Dylan suggests it is time they go on their first real date. They go across the street to the Pershing Square café and although they attempt to keep the date casual and relaxed, the film ends with them in a sensual embrace and passionate kiss.


Credits adapted from AllMovie and The Guardian.[4][5]



Filming locations of the film on several sections in New York City, including Central Park (pictured).

In April 2010, Justin Timberlake became the first to sign on to the project.[6] He was soon followed by Mila Kunis when she landed the female lead opposite him. Approximately two months later, Variety magazine announced that an ensemble cast consisting of Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, Andy Samberg and Jenna Elfman were set to join them in the film.[7] Three days after principal filming, Bryan Greenberg completed the cast.[8] The film features cameo appearances from Shaun White, Jason Segel, and Rashida Jones.[9] Production locations were set up as early as July 13, and principal filmography commenced on July 20, 2010 in the Midtown Manhattan section of New York City.[10] Filming continued in Central Park and other sections of New York City from July to early August before the production relocated to Los Angeles, California.[11][10]

Paramount Pictures dropped its original protest against the film after their director Ivan Reitman, re-titled his film No Strings Attached. Screen Gems then moved forward with the title Friends with Benefits. At the same time, NBC was developing a sitcom with the same title, but the movie production company stated that due to its production schedule, they didn’t expect an issue to arise.[12] Screen Gems chose to accelerate production fearing that they would lose their title to the competing Paramount project. Director Will Gluck spoke about the frustration of comparing the two films, stating: "I wish there was more space between them. The thing that's irking me now is people are saying we're remaking No Strings Attached. We're not remaking it. The two movies were being made at the same time."[13] Gluck, in an interview with The New Zealand Herald, said that both films are different.[14] Similar sentiments were expressed by Kunis, opining, "It's just two different movies. There's only [...] so many stories you can tell in the world. This is just one of the many."[15]

The first theatrical trailer was released on March 16, 2011.[16] The trailer had a subsequent release on YouTube and attracted over a million views in 48 hours, becoming the second most watched video of the day and the most viewed video in the film category.[17] Promotion for Friends with Benefits subsequently grew, including promotional videos from Facebook and Twitter. Timberlake and Kunis also landed on the cover of Elle in support of the film.[18][19]


Will Gluck stated that the concept of the story began with the idea that he wanted to work with Kunis and Timberlake, explaining that he rewrote the script for the two actors. Following those changes, Gluck expressed that he wanted to attract a more adult audience and that he "wanted to do more of an adult movie about sex, too, and about relationships".[20] He went on to compare the storyline of Friends with Benefits to the relationship in films between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.[21]

"As a viewer, I don’t want to walk into a movie called Friends with Benefits and see the PG-13 version. For me, you can't have a movie like that without embracing what the title is."

—Justin Timberlake[22]

In an interview with Movieline, Gluck further discussed the film's plot saying that Friends with Benefits would relate largely with a younger generation. He added: "They comment about these romantic comedies throughout the movie, and as they go through their storyline, they realize that they’re in a romantic comedy story — as two regular people who aren’t in a movie would comment on. They’re very cognizant that they’re in this story [...] but they end up embracing the fact that they’re going through a romantic comedy moment."[23] In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Timberlake explained that he and Gluck held authorship of humor and tone in regards to Friends with Benefits.[22] Timberlake and Kunis workshopped the script for more than a month before the movie went into production. Gluck would meet with the actors with 20 pages of script in front of him and the three would beat it up, changing lines, and defending each character's perspective.[24]


In June 2011, it was announced that Madison Gate Records would be distributing the album which featured fifteen songs. The album for Friends with Benefits was released on July 19, 2011.[25]

Release and reception[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in the United States on December 2, 2011 and in the United Kingdom on February 6, 2012.[26]

Critical response[edit]

Friends with Benefits received generally positive reviews from critics. The film has a 70% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 166 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10.[27] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score, gave the film a 63 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[28]

"The look, thanks to director of photography Michael Grady, and the conversations on sex and commitment are open and open-ended. Important issues about the inherent clash between changing mores and traditional values get noodled over a bit. The sex talk is graphic, the sex itself is explicit and energetic, and Jamie and Dylan have a kind of sweetness that makes you want to root for them. Ironically, the problem is that Friends with Benefits doesn't go far enough when it gets to the substantial stuff. As Freud famously said — even romantic comedies need to take their sex seriously or there will be no satisfaction."

—Betsey Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times[29]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times praised Friends with Benefits for its "breezy, speedy and funny comedy" and complimented the chemistry between the lead actors.[30] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars, and remarked that the film is not "what not every [romantic comedy] has, however, is good dialogue, well-delivered at a fast clip." He added, "Kunis fast-talks her way through the opening scenes as if she's channeling Juno, and Timberlake easily keeps up. At some fundamental level, I simply enjoyed watching them."[31] Peter Debruge of Variety found the plot to be predictable and benign; however, he complimented the cast, calling Kunis "a natural with comedy", while Timberlake "exudes the kind of star wattage that put Will Smith on top."[32] Likewise, Salon‍‍ '​‍s Andrew O'Hehir asserted that despite a disappointing conclusion to the film, it was nonetheless a "rewarding summer diversion."[33] The Guardian writer Peter Bradshaw reacted negatively to the film, expressing that there "was no benefit to watching it." Bradshaw gave the film a one-out-of-five-star rating.[34]

The Daily Telegraph‍‍ '​‍s Sukhdev Sandhu felt that Timberlake held his own when working with Mila Kunis. Concluding his review, Sandhu presented Friends with Benefits a three out of five stars.[35] Betsey Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times praised the acting in the film, opining that "it [brought] a lot of natural life to the party."[29] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, stating that there was "palpable chemistry" between Timberlake and Kunis.[36] Entertainment Weekly writer Owen Gleiberman gave Friends with Benefits a 'B-' grade, exclaiming that while he enjoyed much of the film, he felt that it was inconsistent.[37]

"Kunis's easy authority grounds the movie, while Timberlake tapdances delightfully around the edges. His voice and his manner are light, there's barely a hair on the guy's chest, yet his confidence and wit are sexy in a way entirely befitting a smart urban romance."

— Ty Burr, of the Boston Globe[38]

Mary Pols of Time applauded the film, and wrote that despite the plot being predictable, the film was "elevated by energetic dialogue, the sexual chemistry between the leads and the fact that the miscommunication that keeps bliss at bay [...] is plausible."[39] Giving Friends with Benefits a three-star rating, The Boston Globe journalist Ty Burr opined that the film "works like a charm." He added that it mostly keeps its manic energy in check, and that it plays to chick-flick formulas without ever groveling – which is due almost entirely to the leads."[38] Similar sentiments were expressed by Peter Paras of E!. Giving it a 'B' grade, Paras asserted that the film was the best romantic comedy film in a long time.[40] Melissa Leong of the National Post wrote, "While the film takes jabs at the Hollywood fairy tale, [...] Gluck adheres to the formula."[41]


According to The New York Times, Friends with Benefits, a film "about love and sex in the age of social networking, gets some of its juice and tang partly by trash-talking its own genre. The setup is familiar, as are the essential elements: a single man and a single woman, two battered hearts yet a pair of resilient, eager, pretty bodies [...] Friends with Benefits starts from the premise that its characters, and you, are sick of the romantic comedy clichés they may secretly, or not so secretly, adore."[30] Drew Pinsky, an addiction medicine specialist felt that the film's central characters, both of whom were raised by single parent in the film, "start looking for ways to solve that problem because they were never given the opportunity to grow an emotional landscape from a nurturing, available parent. They were just quickly parentalized and became a caretaker. And the caretaking is all part of the 'going for a broken person' and trying to fix them." He further added that "love addiction ending in 'happily ever after' is not a great message."[42]

Timberlake added that Friends with Benefits is a film for "our generation; people are aged 25 and 30. Moving into a different part of the life, not sure what type of commitment they are comfortable with the significant other or what they're gonna do for the rest of life".[43]

Box office[edit]

Friends with Benefits was released in North America on July 22, 2011, in 2,926 theaters. It collected $6,801,594 on its opening day and then grossed a total of $18,622,150 in its opening weekend, finishing third at the box office, behind Captain America: The First Avenger and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.[2] The film grossed $55.8 million in the United States and Canada.[2]

The film had similar success internationally. In Australia, it premiered on August 18, 2011 and earned $2.4 million during its opening weekend, charting above Green Lantern to finish first at the box office.[44] The film expanded into Europe in September 2011. It grossed $10.6 million from over 20 territories in its first weekend.[45] Friends with Benefits topped first place in France, where it opened with $1.8 million. The film performed highest in the United Kingdom and Germany, where it grossed $3.1 million and $2.6 million in its first weekend upon release, respectively.[45] By mid-September, the film had grossed over $29.6 million overseas.[45] It went on to gross over $149.5 million worldwide, with international grosses standing at $93.7 million.[2]


Awards Category Nominee Result Ref.
2011 Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Movie Star: Male Justin Timberlake Nominated [46]
Choice Summer Movie Star: Female Mila Kunis Nominated
2012 People's Choice Awards Favorite Comedy Movie Friends with Benefits Nominated [47]
Favorite Comedic Movie Actress Mila Kunis Nominated
2012 Rembrandt Awards Best Foreign Actress Nominated [48]


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  30. ^ a b Dargis, Manohla (July 22, 2011). "It’s Just Sex. We’re Just Friends. You Know the Rules. Etc., Etc.". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2011. 
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  40. ^ Paras, Peter (July 21, 2011). "Movie Review: Friends With Benefits Is the First Decent Rom–Com in, Like, Forever". E!. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  41. ^ Leong, Melissa (July 21, 2011). "Film review: Friends With Benefits (3 stars)". National Post. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
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