Well, it's an improvement on No Strings Attached, but that's hardly an enthusiastic recommendation. Friends With Benefits shares a similar storyline to that insipid and forgettable effort in that it consists of a boy and a girl who decide to become fuck buddies – indulging in great sex without any of the trappings of a relationship.
Here it's Timberlake as a creative targeted by headhunter Kunis to become the new art director for GQ. He uproots sticks from LA to settle in bustling New York – photographed in sunny splendour utilising the busy East and West sides of Manhattan. He's emotionally unavailable, she's emotionally fragile – but they can't keep their hands off each other. Everyone knows that they should be together, including her ditsy mom (Clarkson) and his older sister (Elfman) and senile pa (Jenkins). Unsurprisingly, feelings come into play and muddy their arrangement. She makes him jealous, he uspets her, she gets stroppy and ignores him, he realises the error of his ways and tries to win her back, yadda, yadda, yadda.
There's little to actually amuse oneself here – Harrelson gets the biggest laughs as the magazines's gay, predatory sports editor – but that said this modest but overlong affair has verve and energy. This is down to the two leads. Timberlake and Kunis aren't natural comic performers and have few funny lines to spout but nevertheless are immensely winning and engaging. They play off each other with relaxed ease and confidence, and are very persuasive in trying to make this formulaic romp more than just a conventional romcom. In the early stages the script pokes fun at the cliches of the genre – the predictable music for example, and Katherine Heigl – and is well up to date with current technology (iPhones, apps etc) but come the end it has nothing new to say. It concludes in much the same way as any other examples of the sort. Agreeable enough to be sure and certainly likeable but not nearly as cutting or as progressive as it wants and needs to be.